• Published 10th Jul 2020
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Howlite Howler 3 - Three Tails

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Chapter 2: The City of Crystal

The two pony scouts carefully watched where the magic was gathering. To be fair, there had always been something odd about that place. A large circular spot between two equally large mountains, the snow there was unnaturally smooth, as if something had been plucked off the face of Equestria. For a while, the snow had gathered there, slowly trying to hide whatever evidence had once dwelled there.

But now, the snow was softly glowing. Magic swirled with the blizzards of the north, reforming the circular gap and clearing it of snow or debris. The ponies crouched under their tarp, watching and waiting for when the magic completed itself.

“What do you think?” the pegasus with armor commented to her lab coat wearing companion. “Is it almost done?”

The lab coat unicorn hummed, checking over a pad of notes kept magically dry by his efforts. “Could happen any hour to any day now,” he said. “We should probably hold back until the magic completes itself.”

“Shouldn’t we tell the Princess?” the pegasus asked.

“And tell her what?” the unicorn refuted. “That something’s close to happening?” He laughed. “We’ll tell her when we have something worth talking about.”

The pegasus pointed from her tarp. “Like that?” she asked.

The unicorn followed her gaze, his brow briefly furrowing, before widening in alarm.

Trudging towards the magic gathering was a large pack of diamond dogs. But not just any diamond dogs; instead of grungy mutts in vests carrying pickaxes, these diamond dogs were outfitted in polished, gem studded armor. Softly glowing swords and staffs topped with pulsating crystals dissuaded any hostile intentions. Changelings oddly enough walked by their side, looking fuller and friendlier than the monsters that had menaced Canterlot not that long ago. And even the outside researchers could recognize the magic glow emanating from their leader. A magic glow and aura that could only belong to one diamond dog.

“That’s…” the pegasus whispered. “But… it can’t be.”

“The Howlite Howler,” the unicorn whispered. “The Princess warned us she might be around this side of Equestria.”

“W-Well, should we warn her?” the pegasus asked. “She’s walking right towards the source! She's got Celestia-cursed Changelings with her!”

“Can you feel the magic in the air?” the unicorn demanded. “There’s no way she couldn’t sense or see any of that!”

“Well, she’s still a diamond dog,” the pegasus noted. “And she’s got those changelings right out in the open next to her. Maybe… I don’t know, maybe she’s not smart enough to…”

A bark cut her off. The ponies watched, worried, as the Howlite Howler began pointing. The diamond dogs began to surround the source of gathering magic, planting staffs, digging tunnels and in general, preparing to meet whatever the magic brought forward.

“Sparrow?” The unicorn pat his pegasus companion’s side. “Get to Princess Celestia,” he insisted. “Tell her the Howlite Howler’s found the gathering of magic, and…”

CRACKLE-BOOM!

The ponies froze, while the diamond dogs jumped back. Thunder rattled the source of magic, cracking the ice like a dropped mirror. The first thing that flowed out was an outpouring of thick black smoke, like an industrial factory was hiding under the ice.

But as the smoke curled up into the air and turned the dark storm clouds an even more ominous black, what rose up after it was far from an industry plant. It was a city of crystals; quartz, pearls, amethysts, garnets and so many other gems all built together to form a massive city. The ponies gaped in alarm.

“And tell her that the Crystal Empire has returned,” the unicorn whispered, the pegasus only able to give one spasm of a nod before taking flight and fleeing into the blizzard.

The unicorn turned back to the Howlite Howler, who was approaching the reborn crystal city. Despite his heart pounding in fear, the unicorn prepared to go down and confront her. Smart or dumb, hero or villain, that diamond dog needed to understand what she was getting into.

But before he could take a step in her direction, a voice hissed up from the clouds.

At last,”it hissed. “SS-So long. Trapped. Cold… But now?”

The unicorn turned, his eyes shrinking to pinpricks as a dark unicorn face formed from the dark storm clouds above him.

Now… I return!” King Sombra bellowed.

The unicorn tried to run for the Howlite Howler – any ally was better than none – but he didn’t get even five hoof steps.

#

With the unicorn’s cry for help lost in the raging wind of the blizzard, Shiva and Luke slowly approached the crystal city. Scorpia and Skippy, approached behind them, the Iron Paws and Scorpia’s changelings intermixed with various weapons at the ready.

Shiva cautiously reached into the space where the magic still pulsed, but Luke pulled her back.

“Careful,” he said. “Let me."

Shiva grumbled, but stepped back, allowing Luke to carefully step out from the snow and onto the crystal streets. He took two steps, then stopped, looking around. Shiva wasn’t sure what she expected – some laser grid to hit him, or some magic aura to burn him – but whatever it was, it didn’t happen.

Shiva followed him in. The only thing she noticed was that it was slightly warmer in the Empire than out in the snow. Not that Shiva had to worry about cold; her thick fluffy coat protected her already, and she had figured out how to enchant her armor with spells that kept her the right temperature no matter where she was. But that didn’t stop her from feeling the change in temperature.

She stepped further in than Luke. Nothing happened to either of them. And as Shiva turned back to the others, the light of greed was rapidly brightening in her eyes.

“Ladies and Gentle-Dogs,” she declared. “I think we just found a perfect capital for Outer Haven.”

The diamond dogs howled in glee, charging into the city, claws itching for the gems and jewels that made up the city. But just as they began yanking the first quartz crystals from the first houses… the doors to the houses opened, and occupants limped out with trembling hoof steps.

“What… happened?” one of them asked.

“Who are you?” another asked, catching sight of the diamond dogs.

But Shiva froze, a growl choking her throat. Luke’s throat, however, was not as easily blocked.

Ponies,”he snarled.

Faded coats to be sure. Large, dull eyes that looked almost dead. But Shiva couldn’t help but parallel the equine forms to the same equines who caged her. The same equines who had to make her life complicated with their differing moralities and attempts to use her…

“Diamond Dogs!” several of them whimpered, ducking back into their houses.

“Oh, no,” Luke snarled, grabbing at the nearest pony before she ducked into her house. “Get out! This place is ours now!”

“Luke,” Shiva chastised, though she wasn't sure what she was chastising him for. Just as Scorpia and Skippy raced in to help her, one of the ponies spoke up.

“B-But what about King Sombra?”

Shiva paused. “King Sombra?” she asked, peering into the house of the pony who’s spoken. “I thought you followed Princess Celestia.”

“Princess Celestia?” the pony asked. She opened the door, hope glowing on her face. “D-Did she come to rescue us?”

No,” a demonic voice purred.

Shiva’s back fur flared, while the ponies screamed. She and her diamond dogs whirled around. Several whimpered in horror as a giant unicorn face emerged from the dark clouds above them, grinning maliciously.

Celestia cannot save you,” the dark visage grumbled. His green and red eyes landed on Shiva. “Now bow to me. Bow to King Sombra, and accept your fate!”

The ponies yelped and scampered back into their homes. Shiva, however, flared her lightning in rage.

“It’ll be a cold day in Tartarus before I serve another pony,” Shiva vowed, blasting at the dark visage.

However, the creature caught her lighting bolt, matching it with an obsidian dark beam.

How quaint,” the demon mused. “We already reside in the cold.”

“Into the city,” Shiva ordered as the dogs opened fire. “Take cover.”

As the diamond dogs retreated into the crystal city, Sombra pressed them, blasting at Shiva with an obsidian beam. Shiva tried to deflect, only for the beam to slash across her left arm. She howled in rage and pain, dark crystals sprouting up from the fur along her arm.

“Shiva!” Luke barked, before blasting his own spell at Sombra. “Idiots, help your Alpha!” he bellowed to the others.

As one, the diamond dogs extended their weapons to Shiva. Beams of light connected them in a spider web of magic. Shiva’s lunged up with a howl and fired a stronger beam at Sombra, though he managed to match it with a beam of his own. But as Shiva gave the scared, whimpering pony in the house another look, her eyes lit up with realization.

She extended a tendril of light that forced itself into the house, and connected to the little pony.

A surge of magic coursed into Shiva as she howled in victory, her beam overpowering Sombra and scattering him into clouds. The ponies poked their heads back out, gaping in alarm, but Shiva turned back to them with a glimmer in her eyes.

“All ponies capable of magic,” she barked, pulling the equine she had connected to out and extending her paw. “Lend us your aid!”

“B-But…” they protested. “We can’t fight against the King. He rules… A-And there's diamond dogs and changelings... we're so scared…!”

Shiva turned to the pony she had caught, and used her link to delved into her thoughts memories. She shuddered at what she saw: Broken ponies, garbed in chains. All forced to work or serve King Sombra – a dark pony whose green eyes shined from the top of a crystal tower.

Sympathy surged through Shiva’s heart, chasing the hate and suspicion she had once felt for these ponies.

“I understand now,” Shiva said, looking on the ponies with softer eyes. “I see how he’s hurt you. How he enslaved you. How he tortured you.”

The ponies blinked. “You… see?” they asked.

“Keep it off us,” Luke ordered the diamond dogs. Together with the changelings, they began firing at Sombra, keeping him at bay as Luke ran to Shiva’s side. “Yes,” he declared to them. “You stand before Alpha Shiva; Howlite Howler, Bearer of Magic, and Leader of Outer Haven.”

“Like you,” Shiva explained. “We were captured by cruel ponies. Tortured for things that were out of our control.” As she spoke, she pushed her own memories to them; let them see how she and her dogs were tortured by Beast Breaker. Then, she showed them busting out. “But we broke out. We took control of our fate. And we refused to let those who were cruel or ruthless enough to hurt others for their own gain succeed. Now, it’s time for you to do the same!” She summoned tendrils of light, who soared to the gathering ponies. “Stand up against your oppressor,” she demanded, pointing to Sombra as he struggled against the blasts of magic from the diamond dog’s staffs, and the changeling’s horns. “Use the magic you were blessed with to ensure he never can. Do not let him thrive off your suffering any more. Rise! Fight! AND SEIZE YOUR FREEDOM!”

Her speech worked. Emboldened by her words and the visions she sent them, several of the bravest ponies grabbed her tendrils, and their magic coursed into the howlite howler, forming a powerful beam of rainbow colored energy that finally exploded Sombra back into storm clouds. Yet the darkness didn’t fade from the clouds around them. Shiva glared around suspiciously as the diamond dogs, changelings and ponies converged around her.

“I-Is he gone?” the pony closest to Shiva’s side asked.

Scorpia glared at the storm clouds. “He’s wounded,” she admitted. “But he may come back.”

Shiva glared down at her arm, which still had several dark crystals jutting from it. She clenched it with anger.

“And we’ll be ready when he does,” she growled, turning away and delving into the city. “Luke, get a guard around the outside of the city,” she ordered. “Every stallion and mare who can bear arms, have them using their magic to defend this kingdom.” She turned to the pony she had grabbed. “You, what’s your name?”

“R-Rose Quartz,” she mumbled.

“Rose,” Shiva said, “Help Luke. Share what you saw with those too scared, let them know that we're all working to keep Sombra from taking charge again. Hey,” she added, gripping the mare’s shoulders when she started to tremble. She searched her mind, finding images of a stallion she liked, and the hopes of starting a family. “Do this for them,” Shiva told her firmly, making sure the thoughts were shining in the mare's head.

The mare’s resolve strengthened, and she nodded.

“A-Alright,” she said. “I’ll try.” She took off after Luke. Shiva smiled and continued towards the Crystal Castle.

“Skippy,” Shiva continued. “Search the libraries. I want to know this place’s history, and what we’re dealing with exactly.”

“You had me at libraries,” Skippy said in glee, practically teleporting into the city.

“And Princess Scorpia?” Shiva asked.

“Right behind you,” she replied, switching from her diamond dog form and glaring up at the tower. “Let’s see what the Royals left behind for us.”

#

In the Equestrian capital of Canterlot, Celestia sat upon her throne, watching grimly as the latest corrupt noble was carted screaming off to the dungeons.

The work load had truly picked up after the incident with the Howlite Howler. Celestia had put her guards into over drive, searching every noble’s house for even the smallest hint of corruption. Though many had been clean – Fancy Pants had been an especially good sport about the whole thing – there were still plenty of snobbish ‘nobles’ that she had found had gotten their enormous wealth from making certain ‘moral and ethical’ sacrifices.

The whole thing made Celestia shiver in disgust. The thought that, for so long, these mares and stallions had profited from vice and corruption in a nation she had built based on the values of friendship and harmony? Part of her considered setting the Elements of Harmony up as nobility. It truly said something when the noblest and kindest among them were simple cottage dwellers or apple harvesters rather than the ones that stood closest to Celestia’s side.

“All I’ll need is some recent proof,” Celestia decided. “Something to really rub in how much more noble and true they are compared to the ‘nobles’ that used to occupy this capital.”

Almost as if Faust herself was choosing to help her, the doors burst open, and a snow-coated pegasus galloped through the door.

“News from Northern Equestria, your Highness,” the pegasus – Speeding Sparrow, Celestia recognized – gasped.

“Calm now,” Celestia replied, rising from her throne. “What is it?”

Speeding Sparrow took a moment to catch her breath. But when she spoke…

“The Crystal Empire has returned,” Sparrow reported. “And the Howlite Howler has found it.”

Celestia’s small smile faded to a serious grimace.

Well, Faust, she mumbled. I did ask, but… the Crystal Empire? She shook her head, tossing her mane behind her. I’ll make it work,she decided.

“Find Princess Cadence and Shining Armor,” she commanded. “Along with the ponies who wished to join the Howlite Howler.”

As Speeding Sparrow departed with a quick, ‘Yes, your Highness,’ Celestia yanked the nearest blank scroll and quill to her side.

My dearest Twilight,” Celestia wrote. “You must come to Canterlot at once…”

Author's Note:

And so, Shiva's first conflict begins: can she and her newfound allies hold the line against Sombra? And more importantly, will her dogs want the reinforcements that are arriving from the south? For even if Sombra is defeated, the diamond dogs will want the Crystal Empire for themselves.

Thank you again for reading. I always appreciate your feedback and guidance.

:twilightsmile: