• Published 10th Jul 2020
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Howlite Howler 3 - JNKing

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Chapter 14: A Mother's Hunt

Author's Note:

So, not my finest chapter, I'll admit. :twilightsheepish:

But, it gets us to a section I've been dying to work on, so... let me know what I can do to improve this chapter. I always appreciate constructive feedback.

Thanks again for reading and being a wonderful audience.

When Luke returned with the news, he didn’t expect to feel conflict for what he had done. Yet, the heartbroken expression on his mate’s face almost made him reconsider his lie; a fact Scorpia more than picked up on.

“You say he… collapsed the tunnel,” she pointed out. “You couldn’t dig your way through?”

Luke swallowed, but shook his head. “He had some of our dogs with him,” he said. “The best. They knew what they were doing.”

“So now what?” Filthy Rich demanded. Tears were in his eyes, and his cow of a wife was nowhere to be seen. “First, that… he… burns down my home and my place of business, and now he nearly kills my wife… and he gets to get away with all of it?” He indicated the hospital in the distance. “I don’t know if she’ll ever walk again, after what he did to her!” He looked to Shiva. “Shiva… how can you condone this?”

“I don’t,” Shiva said, rising up. “That’s why I personally, am going to get him back.”

Everyone stared at her; the other Alphas. Luke. Even Celine, who was watching through a crack in the door.

“M-Mother…?” she asked.

“Celine,” Shiva said quietly, pulling her from her hiding spot. “You’re going to need to be in charge while I’m gone. Use your powers; do your part to protect Outer Haven and the Crystal Empire.” She turned to Luke. “Luke. Keep her safe. As her father, I hope you can do that…”

Shiva didn't say the last of her sentence, but Luke could feel the words in his heart; like you protected our son. Luke briefly glanced at the changeling princess, but Shiva kept her eyes solely on him. He didn’t meet her gaze.

She turned to the princesses. “Help my daughter with ruling,” she said. “Answer any questions she has.”

Cadence nodded. “Of course, Shiva,” she said.

Shiva finally turned to Filthy Rich, as if she wanted to say something else to him. But as the two locked eyes, words seemed to fail the diamond dog mage. She shut her eyes with a sigh, before walking out.

Exchanging a mutual look, Shining Armor and Luke raced after her. By the time they caught up to her, she had already made it to the border to the Frozen North, diamond dogs watching her with fear in their eyes.

“Shiva,” Shining Armor protested. “Don’t you want help on this? Changelings? Ponies?”

But the minute he said ‘ponies,’ Shiva turned to him, and her eyes were dark as shadows. The captain wisely backed up at the anger in her eyes.

“I don’t want to even see a pony near my son until I’ve gotten the chance to talk to him,” she growled.

“Wait,” Luke stammered. “You’re going alone?”

Shiva glared at him as well. “I thought I could trust my own pack to uphold justice,” she said. She turned away from him. “I was wrong.”

And with both males holding their heads in shame and fear, the Howlite Howler trekked into the snow, and was lost to the swirling wind.

#

Meanwhile, in Canterlot, Celestia lowered Cadence’s latest message with a sigh. Luna peeked her head into Celestia’s room.

“Tia?” she asked. “More bad news of the Howlite Howler?”

Celestia levitated the message over to Luna. “She’s gone after her son,” Celestia said. “A son who nearly murdered one of my little ponies. A son lost to the Frozen North. Until she returns, her daughter speaks for the Diamond Dogs in the Crystal Empire.”

Luna glanced over the message before looking up at her sister. “Is this… not good?” she asked. “You were hoping for Celine to take the throne. And she holds our ponies in high regard.”

“But at what cost, Luna?” Celestia asked, her face creased with pain. “Shiva now has to hunt down her own son like he’s a common criminal! And the pony who provoked him stands on death’s door. What kind of princess would I be to punish Spoiled Rich further when Kodo has already passed judgement?”

“As I recall,” Luna noted. “Kodo is not the ruler of Equestria. You are.” She turned away. “Shall I have some Royal Guard ponies join Shiva? Perhaps a bounty for the young dog’s arrest?”

“You shall do none of those things,” Celestia said firmly.

“Should Twilight do them instead?” Luna asked, a wry grin briefly flashing across her face, before Celestia’s glare chased it away.

“Twilight has enough to deal with,” Celestia said. “Her reports speak of a ‘Starlight Glimmer’ who attempted to steal her cutie mark.” She turned to her desk and picked up her pen. “I will have her dedicate her time to finding this Starlight Glimmer and bringing her to justice. And I will leave Kodo’s judgement to his mother.”

Luna blinked. “Do you truly trust Shiva to be fair to our ponies when it comes to her family.”

Celestia sighed. “I have to,” she said. “Otherwise, we may truly end up losing her for good.”

#

However, several months passed, and Shiva did not return. Neither did Kodo.

Celine ruled as best she could, but the diamond dogs still fretted. They constantly came, asking when Shiva was going to be back.

Cases of diamond dogs fighting ponies began to crop up more and more. Despite Celine’s attempt to be fair and just, the diamond dogs always saw her looking to Scorpia and Cadence for advice. After five cases, one of the dogs snarled and barked at her the second she turned to Cadence.

“Your mother would’ve understood,” the dog growled as she stormed away. “She would’ve remembered she was a diamond dog first, and not a pony.”

“Remember her rank,” Luke snapped at them.

But the words still took an effect on Celine. As the months went by, Celine began to lose weight. Her head was constantly lowered and throbbed with pain. She suffered from nightmares, to the point where Luke reluctantly allowed Cadence to contact Luna.

“She needs her mother back,” Luna reported the next morning. “Her dreams are constantly filled with fear that her mother has died out in the Frozen North.”

Shining shook his head. “She’s been out there for too long,” he admitted. “If she isn’t dead, she’s probably found Kodo and is hiding him.”

“Have care how you speak,” Luke growled.

“Be honest, Luke,” Cadence said. “Wouldn’t you do the very same?”

Luke grimaced, but was unable to refute them. Cadence turned to Scorpia.

“We need to go after them,” she said. “We need to make sure they’re alright. For Celine’s sake.”

“She made her thoughts on ponies clear,” Scorpia said. She smiled before Cadence could protest. “But she never said anything about changelings.”

The ponies blinked, slowly understanding what she was saying.

“I should go with,” Shining Armor insisted. When Cadence glared at him, he raised his hoof. “It’s not that I don’t trust them; they could use all the help they can get.”

“You need to be with your wife, Captain,” she insisted. “Now more than ever.”

Cadence ran a hoof under her stomach, and Shining got the message, sticking to her side. Scorpia turned before Luke could add his opinion.

“You let your son go once before, Alpha Luke,” she said. “While I understand why, it doesn’t mean I’m willing to trust you with him a second time. And besides that… your daughter is definitely going to need you.”

Luke glanced in the direction of his daughter’s room, and sighed in resignation.

Scorpia grinned at her fellows. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I think you’ll like the changeling I have in mind for this search.”

#

Skippy forged deep into the Frozen North, a few changelings behind him his only backup.

“Are you sure this is the right path?” one of them asked.

“Being around the diamond dogs had more than a few advantages,” Skippy replied. “I managed to combine their tracking skills as canines with our own love-seeking abilities. Rather than tracking Shiva by scent, I can track her by love.”

“It can’t be just love that’s around her,” another one of the changelings noted. “Certainly, wasn’t any love between those two Rich ponies.”

“Well, there was some love with the male,” another changeling noted. “But I got nothing from the female.” He smirked. “I wonder if Shiva’s glad her son blasted that mare.”

“Don’t be crude,” Skippy chastised. “Alpha Shiva’s not like that.”

“No, Alpha Shiva not,” a voice admitted.

The changelings froze. Figures were appearing out of the snow. But… they weren’t diamond dogs.

They looked almost like ponies, but were covered in dense, shaggy fur. A large hump protruded over their back, and smooth horns swept out from either side of their heads.

“Yaks,” Skippy whispered.

“Alpha Kodo tell Yaks much about Alpha Shiva,” the largest of the Yaks bellowed. “And even more about ponies who enslave Alpha Shiva!”

Skippy stepped back, before paws wrapped around his hind legs. Before he could turn around, he and his fellow changelings were pulled down into the snow… and soon found themselves surrounded by spears.

“Changelings,” one of the diamond dogs spat, even though Skippy felt an odd aura from him. “Ponies still keep sending others to do their work for them?”

“Wait!” a voice barked. From the group of diamond dogs, yaks... and perhaps other changelings, a familiar shadow-black wolf stepped forward. “Skippy?”

Skippy leaned forward in relief. “Kodo,” he said. He glanced up. “Um… care to explain the yaks and changelings?"

The disguised changeling jumped back with a surprised bark, but Skippy glared at him.

"Don't think you can fool your own kind," he said. "I could see your illusion spell the minute your friends pulled us down here."

Kodo glanced at him with a chuckle. “I guess the yaks are more intimidating, aren’t they?” he noted, nodding for his dogs – and a few yaks - to back off. “We found the changelings living with the yaks, just like the tactic you were pulling. Took us a while to earn their trust, but a lot of them are quite curious to see Equestria.”

“And to smash it,” an Iron Wolf added gleefully.

“SMASH!” A yak boomed, kicking into a wall and making the whole room shudder. Though Skippy didn’t need a possible earthquake to already be shivering.

“Look, Kodo,” He said, struggling to keep his voice calm. “I know you’re scared, but Shiva went looking for you. She told all ponies to stay back, but she’s been missing for months now. Have you seen her?”

Kodo’s face fell. He made a series of barks to his fellow dogs and yaks, and they singled Skippy out from his pod. Nudging him after Kodo, Skippy followed the young iron wolf through a long winding tunnel.

At the far end was a room bathed in the soft orange glow of firelight. Wrapped in furs and placed close to the fire was Shiva. Her eyes were shut, and though her chest rose and fell with life, she didn’t show any other signs of living.

“We found her like this,” Kodo said. “Half-frozen in the snow, but still trekking forward. Then she saw me…” he shook his head. “And passed out from pure relief.” He lifted his claws, watching dark lightning flash across them. “I’ve tried to heal her with the pack link… but nothing I’ve done has worked.”

Skippy, however, peered at his dark lightning. Something about it sent his senses on high alert.

“Something’s wrong with your pack link,” he said, his horn flaring up. “It’s been compromised.”

Kodo blinked at him in shock. “Compromised?” he stammered. “But… can’t be. I got away from the ponies. And the yaks can’t use magic!” He gasped, glancing back at the changelings. "You don't think..."

"No," Skippy admitted. "The magic's wrong. Darker. But it's there." To prove it, his own horn flared with light. He shot a healing spell to Shiva… and instantly, she awoke.

Kodo gasped, clutching his head. But before Skippy could turn to him, Shiva’s eyes focused on Kodo.

“Kodo,” she whispered happily, reaching out for him. “I found you.”

Kodo released his throbbing head, his tail wagging as he took his mother’s claw. “Mother…” he whispered. “I’m sorry. For everything, I’m so sorry…”

Shiva’s face fell, but she said nothing for a short moment. At least… until she noticed Skippy.

“Skippy?” she asked. “What are you… doing here?”

“You’ve been missing for months,” he explained. “I think something in your son’s pack link was keeping you unconscious. We need to let the ponies examine him.”

Shiva blinked, staring up at Kodo, even as he shook his head.

“I wouldn’t,” he insisted. “Mother, I don’t know what was happening, but…” He whimpered as she rose. “Please, don’t hand me back over to the ponies. You can figure out what went wrong; you always know what to do.”

“I…” Shiva paused, looking down at the fire in realization. “I don’t… want to hand you over to them,” she admitted. “But if something’s influencing you…”

“You will,” Kodo noted, his voice becoming resigned. “Won’t you?” The fire glinted off his scared eyes. They briefly darted away, as if he was listening to something. “It’s like Tirek said; you do what they say…”

“Kodo, calm down,” Skippy insisted. “If we tried to attack them like Tirek or Chrysalis did, we would have suffered more than we would’ve gained.”

“How do you know?!” Kodo insisted, turning back to Shiva. “You’ve shown me your memories. I’ve seen what happened. They needed you to stop Chrysalis. They needed you to stop Sombra. They needed you to stop Tirek…”

“And even if I didn’t stop them, they’d have figured something out,” Shiva barked back, pulling herself from the pile of furs. “That’s what these ponies are. For some reason beyond either of us, this universe decided that this was their world. I was lucky enough to forge a place for us in their world. But trying to take it over is foolish. We would have been beaten, and you would’ve been raised in a cage.”

Kodo glared down at the fire. “And what if you were wrong,” he noted solemnly. “What if you could’ve beaten them?”

“Kodo, enough,” Skippy insisted.

“What if you had taken over Equestria,” Kodo insisted. “What if you hadn’t been afraid?!”

#

Twenty years ago…

Eight-year-old Rainbow Dash was in awe. A short while ago, she had been eager to race these no-good bullies Dumb-Bell and Hoops that had been harassing poor Fluttershy.

But before they could start, they noticed what looked like a unicorn and a dragon riding an alicorn exchanging magical blasts with each other. Back and forth they went, beams of light flashing through the air like fireworks.

Eagerly, Rainbow Dash, Dumb-Bell and Hoops gathered, along with other pegasi. One pegasus even started passing out popcorn.

Just as the purple mare managed a blast that knocked the pink mare out of the sky, the purple mare turned, and noticed the foals. Her eyes widened at the sight of Rainbow Dash.

“What are you doing?!” the purple mare cried to her. “You have to finish your race!”

Rainbow Dash and Dumb-Bell glanced at each other.

“Uh, no way,” Dumb-Bell said.

“Yeah, this is way more exciting,” Rainbow Dash agreed.

The purple mare’s face fell, as the pink unicorn rose behind her.

“See?” the pink unicorn mocked. “You can’t stop me no matter what you do.”

The purple mare whirled on her, and Rainbow Dash leaned forward, eagerly hoping the purple mare made the pink unicorn pay for being smug.

But suddenly, a strange blue portal opened up over the purple mare… and the dragon, alicorn and unicorn were gone.

The foals slumped. “Aw, man!” Rainbow Dash bemoaned. As she and Dumb-Bell flapped away, an odd tingle went through her gut. Rainbow Dash wasn’t sure at the time, but she couldn’t help but feel for a moment that something had gone very-very wrong.

Then the feeling was gone.