• Published 10th Jul 2020
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Howlite Howler 3 - JNKing

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Chapter 8: A Bad Influence

Kodo didn’t know why he felt so… happy seeing the Crystal Empire. Yet, as he, his mother and his sister stood on the balcony overlooking the city of gems and jewels, he felt that strange leaping sensation of joy. Like a past life had really loved this place.

Then again, the Empire was something to be proud of: sparkling with every building made from gems. Diamond dogs, changelings and ponies pattered about, trading with each other, or walking together into mines, or simply just moving to and from the many crystal buildings spread out before them.

“Look, Kodo and Celine,” Shiva said. “Gaze upon the greatest trade depot of Outer Haven. Everything we have, we have pulled from the ground, and made better by trading with the ponies and changelings. Usually, diamond dogs rely on nothing but their own paws.” She lifted her own claws, and let lightning spark across them. “My power changed that. The power that you have both inherited. The power that has allowed us to enjoy the luxuries ponies take for granted every day.”

Kodo and Celine looked down at their claws, and lifted them. Black lightning once again sparked across Kodo's claws, while white lightning merely sparked briefly across Celine’s. Celine gave Kodo a worried look, before Shiva drew both their attention.

“But even the most powerful lights eventually flicker and die,” she said sadly, touching their claws and dissipating their light. Her eyes grew sad. “I won’t lie to you two. My time on this world is limited, as are my own strength and abilities.” She gazed at them with sad eyes. “I will need both of you to help keep this kingdom going. To provide the light that the diamond dogs need, and to lead our people.”

Kodo looked out across the kingdom.

“And this will all be mine?” he asked.

Celine cleared her throat. “He means ours,” she growled.

“Neither,” Shiva said sharply. “You may lead the pack, but that does not make you their masters.” Her voice softened when the pups winced before her. “A pack without their Alpha is lost, but an Alpha without their pack is nothing.” Her gaze hardened by a fraction. “Before either of you have a chance to hold the title of Alpha, I will see to it that you understand that.”

“Bah,” that dark voice in Kodo’s head spat. “A people’s duty is solely to serve their King. She is a soft-hearted fool not to realize this.”

“Hey!” Kodo growled to himself. “That’s my mother you're talking about!”

“Are you alright, my son?” Shiva asked. With a wince, Kodo realized he had grimaced during his brief argument with his own thoughts.

“Yeah, just…” he mumbled, still rubbing his head. “Isn’t it the people’s duty to serve the Alpha? What's the point of being Alpha if you have to do everything for the people.”

Shiva’s gaze became melancholy.

“An Alpha who doesn't share in the work, and rules only through fear inspires nothing but hatred in their subjects,” she warned. “And hate leads to suffering, my children; for everyone involved.” Her gaze grew almost desperate. “You must learn balance, my son; how to be fierce and commanding when the situation calls for it, yet also capable of kindness and empathy when it is offered in turn. Help others, rather than throw your weight around. Give guidance when you are asked. And defend those you love with everything you have if they are threatened.”

Kodo looked down, while Celine hummed. “Sounds like we have a lot to learn,” she admitted.

“Perhaps,” Shiva said. The pups turned to see her smiling. “But that is the point of pup hood; to grow and learn of the new world you’ve joined.” She brushed their fur. “Don’t be scared, my children,” she assured them. “I still have some time left on this world; if fate is kind, it will be a very long time. And before that time is up, I will make sure you are ready to take the rank of Alpha, and lead alongside the changelings and ponies.” She pressed her head to theirs. “I’ll be cursed if I let you be forced into a role you are not ready to play yet.”

Kodo hugged his mother tightly, wishing that her time was limitless. The idea of her not being there for him… it was terrifying.

Made him wonder just how safe it was for her to be around these ‘changelings’ and ‘ponies.’

All questions for him to ruminate on, as Shiva was drawn by another voice.

“Alpha Shiva,” Skippy called, racing to her side. “Cadence requested your aid. Something is approaching the Crystal Empire’s borders. Something big and not friendly-looking.”

Shiva growled, before turning to her children. “Apologies,” she said. “But like I said, when a pack is threatened, the Alpha needs to be there to help defend."

“Can we come with?” Kodo asked.

“No,” Shiva said. “Stay back, and stay safe.” She gave them a brief smile. “Don’t worry; I’ll be back soon.” Then she left at a full sprint, leaving Kodo and Celine to their own devices.

Kodo sighed, glancing at Celine. What Shiva had said still echoed in his mind.

My time is limited. Did that mean she was going to die? Could she die right now, with whatever this thing was that was approaching?

Why take the chance?” he found himself thinking. “You have magic, yes? Why should anything that threatens her be allowed to do so?”

“Kodo?” Celine asked.

Kodo turned to her. “We can’t let Mother get hurt,” he said, already moving after her. “We have to help.”

“But Mom told us to stay back,” Celine insisted.

“But what if she needs help?” Kodo demanded. “We have her power. We could really make things better for her.”

Celine flinched. “But we barely know how to use it,” she pointed out.

“We won’t go right into the battle,” Kodo promised her. “We’ll stay on the side, and use what we can to at least distract. A little help’s gotta be better than nothing, right?”

The female sighed, but as she gazed over the Empire, and noticed a strange disturbance on the border, Kodo saw the same fear creep onto her face. The young female joined the male, and together, they headed up for the caverns.

“No risky maneuvers,” she whispered, more to herself than anything else.

“Of course not,” Kodo said. “We just follow at a distance, and if Mom starts to lose, we give her some help.”

#

Celine quickly changed her tune when they saw who Shiva was meeting with.

They weren’t ponies, changelings or diamond dogs. One of them admittedly had the lower half of an equine, with hooves and an equine body. But where his neck and head should’ve been, the upper torso of a simian body grew instead; dark red skin, with what looked like a sleeveless black shirt collared in silver. Horns grew from either side of his head, and his black and yellow eyes watched the ponies with a hungry light.

His companion, though, was an odder sort. He looked like a mismatch of odd creatures; the limbs of bears, chickens, dragons and goats, all mashed together into a serpentine mix. His head was that of a goat, and his red and yellow eyes watched everyone with a far more mischievous light.

Celine instantly backed up, but Kodo climbed to the top of one of the diamond houses, watching as ponies and even changelings cowered and shivered behind the diamond dogs.

“Who is this?” Shiva demanded, her voice reaching Kodo. With a grin, he saw Luke right next to her.

“A dead centaur if he doesn’t know what’s good for him,” Luke growled.

The centaur, however, grinned ominously at the dogs before him. The serpentine creature tsked as he gazed upon the dogs.

“My-my,” he said. “Who let the dogs out?” He brought his chicken-leg like fingers up. “Shall I put them back on the leash?”

“No,” Tirek growled, his gaze barely flicking from Shiva’s. “Not yet.”

The serpent creature slumped with a petulant moan, as the centaur bore down on Shiva. Luke bristled, snarling angrily, though it was only when Shiva bared her own fangs that the centaur stopped.

“Who are you?” Shiva demanded. “And what do you want?”

The centaur hummed, glaring at Cadence and Shining, who were situated behind the diamond dogs.

“Your pony friends didn’t tell you of me?” the centaur asked. “How rude of them. Then again, I suppose there are certain things you keep from pets.”

Cadence grit her teeth, but Shiva’s eyes only narrowed.

“Answer the question,” she said bluntly.

The serpentine creature gasped. “Well,” he said. “This dog has teeth.” He floated down before her. “Well, my little pearl, I am Discord. Spirit of Chaos.”

For emphasis, he made the ground grow… Kodo’s ears flicked. Was that popcorn flying out of corn on the cob?

“And this…” Discord jabbed a thumb at the centaur. “Is…”

“Lord Tirek!” the centaur boomed, causing the ponies to shiver. He grinned with all his teeth at Shiva. “And you… are the Howlite Howler.”

“Fluttershy and Celestia had so much to say about you,” Discord commented.

“Great,” Shiva deadpanned. “We know each other, and we’re all friends of the same people. Now, if you’d be so inclined to ship your sorry red tail outta here… you happen to be scaring two thirds of my subjects.”

Tirek glanced vacantly at the ponies.

“You think they’re your subjects?” Tirek asked in disbelief. “You think that Celestia is your friend?” He chuckled. “Come now, Shiva. I thought you were smarter than that.”

“She’s not my friend; it was a general expression!” Shiva snapped, Luke jumping forward with a snarl.

“Ah-ah-ah,” Discord warned, summoning a water sprayer with a flash of light, and spritzing Luke. “Bad Dog. Sit!”

Shiva and Luke only snarled louder, causing Tirek to roll his eyes.

“Discord, why don’t you… have some fun with the ponies?” Tirek demanded, grinning down at Shiva. "This won't take long."

Discord perked up with a grin, and immediately appeared right behind the ponies, scaring them with a pumpkin head. Shining cursed and took off after Discord, Cadence right behind him. Scorpia was nowhere to be seen. Kodo and Celine shared a nervous glance as the ponies flew into a panic, though their attention remained focused on Tirek and Shiva.

“You probably don’t know much about me,” Tirek admitted to the Howlite Howler. “But you must know my story. Imprisoned. Chained. Beaten. All because I was different from ponies. For having a magic very similar to the one you yourself possess.”

Shiva’s ears perked up. She subconsciously glanced at the lightning that was currently linking her and the diamond dogs together.

“And what’s worse,” Tirek growled. “They corrupted my brother. Turned him against me. Poisoned his mind with the same prison that held Discord.” He narrowed his eyes. “Perhaps, the same prison that holds you.”

Luke snarled, held back only by Shiva. “What prison?” Shiva demanded.

“’Friendship.’” Tirek spat the word like it tasted foul. “I do not know how much you know of Discord. But he used to be a legend of chaos. Look at him now.”

The diamond dogs watched as he turned the diamonds into snow, and turned Shining Armor’s shields into soapy bubbles.

“This is what the ponies would repress,” Tirek said. “They’d have him be a slave to his 'friends.' Oh, they’ll say he was happier with them. They’ll say he’s free to make his own choices. But tell me this: have you ever wondered what happens when you refuse their friendship?”

Shiva’s gaze hardened. “You get put down,” she said. “And put down hard. Chrysalis and Sombra both learned that lesson the hard way. I won’t let it happen to me.”

“How?” Tirek demanded. “By bowing down? Becoming their slave? The very weapon that ALLOWED them to win against those two?”

“I am NO ONE’S slave!” Shiva snarled.

“You still help them,” Tirek pointed out.

“And what’s your solution?” Shiva argued. “Attack them? Try to overthrow them? All that does is justify whatever you went through. I join you, it justifies everything they did to me. And to the ones I love.”

“Only if you lose,” Tirek countered. “We are the same, Howlite Howler. We both hold the ability to take what belongs to us. And we both have been imprisoned like slaves for it.” His eyes darted up, and found Kodo. The dark pup froze, his green eyes widening as they held the black and yellow gaze of Tirek.

Shiva followed his gaze. Her posture grew ramrod straight. Luke gasped before covering his snout. Signs that Tirek picked up on.

“Your child?” Tirek commented, moving closer to the dark pup. “How quaint.”

Get away from him,” Shiva snarled, her voice taking on that tone that Kodo remembered hearing. Back when he was first born, and a pink mare had tried to get too close.

But Tirek still gazed at Kodo with intrigue.

“Has your mother told you what happened to her, child?” Tirek asked the young pup. “How she was abused by ponies? Treated like dirt by the very things that now infest your kingdom?”

Leave him alone!” Shiva barked, racing for the building. Tirek just laughed, a flash of red light deflecting Luke when he lunged at the centaur.

“So much fire,” Tirek noted. “But would you act this aggressive if I was Celestia, perhaps?” His eyes gleamed as he returned his gaze to Kodo. “The ponies used to fear your mother because she had power. Power they’ve beaten her into not using against them. If you hold that same power, child… be careful they don’t beat you into submission too.”

Shiva climbed up, and pulled Kodo to her chest. Kodo’s eyes still didn’t leave Tirek’s.

“Where’s your sister?” Shiva whispered to the pup. “Where’s Celine?!”

Before Kodo could respond…

“MAMA!” Celine cried.

Tirek’s face paled as Shiva whirled towards Discord. The draconequus was staring at a perfect diamond carving of Celine. A pony was scrambling away, staring at the statue with shock.

“Discord!” Tirek boomed. “What have you done?”

“What?” Discord replied, indicating Celine. “She wanted to get in the way. Now she’s a literal ‘diamond dog.’"

Discord howled with laughter, but Shiva’s eyes went black with fury. Pressing Kodo to her side, Shiva leaped up and hurled a tendril of light, seizing the draconequus by the neck.

“Ow!” Discord yelped, straining against the tendril. “A simple cricket would’ve sufficed!” he complained, as Shiva began yanking at the tendril, trying to pull him down.

“Dogs!” she barked, and the pack sprang to her aid. Seizing upon her links, the dogs hurled tendrils of their own around the draconequus, even as he fought against them.

“W-What do you think I am?” Discord demanded. “One of you dogs? Ha!” He lifted his hand and snapped his fingers. At first, the tendrils started to shiver into spider webs. But then, the magic got sucked into Shiva, and distributed around her diamond dogs.

“Oh… kay, that’s not normal,” Discord mumbled, actual fear entering his eyes as she started to struggle harder. “Um… Tirek?” he asked. “A little help?”

But when Shiva growled at Tirek, the centaur walked right by her.

“You threatened her children,” Tirek replied. “You can take the fall.”

“W-What?!” Discord stammered. “But I… It was only a…”

He began to actually fight, the dogs straining to hold him down and continue draining his magic. On impulse, Shiva threw a tendril around her daughter, and the diamond faded back into fur as the magic was sucked from around her. Celine gave a great gasp of life, powering Shiva on.

But as Tirek bore down on the ponies, all battered and scared from Discord’s magic, several of the diamond dogs’ eyes flashed green. As Tirek picked up the beaten Shining Armor, and inhaled to absorb his magic, Scorpia burst out from the diamond dog pack, a tendril glowing around her hoof.

“Ponies!” she roared, throwing the tendril to them.

The link quickly got distributed through the pony herd. And as Cadence yanked Shining Armor away, she threw a tendril around Tirek.

Tirek gasped.

“What?!” he barked, as the ponies began to pull back against him. “But you…” He stared down at his arms, gasping in disbelief as they began to lose their muscles. The bright red turned into dead maroon. He turned desperately to Shiva. “Shiva! Howlite Howler! Please, I…!”

But Shiva was deaf to his cries. Discord’s struggle was forcing her to focus solely on the draconequus. Though Discord put up a good fight, with the combined might of the diamond dogs of Outer Haven and the changelings of Vespin Hive, he was slowly pulled from the air. And though he was a spirit of chaos, he was no match for the combined willpower of two small nations. Landing hard on the ground, Discord began to take on a wrinkled complexion as his magic was torn from his body.

At the same time, the changelings pulled double duty, pulling magic from both Discord and Tirek. With their aid, the ponies were able to pull back against the centaur. And in seconds, both centaur and draconequus were on the ground, too weak to rise.

Cadence withdrew the tendril from Tirek’s neck, staring down at his weakened form with anger. However, her anger turned to shock as Discord continued to cry out.

“E-Enough,” he whimpered, as Shiva continued to tug at her link, even though his body was resembling a limp, moldy noodle. “Uncle! You win! I give up! Please!”

But Shiva’s eyes were pure black orbs of rage. She and her dogs continued to pull. Kodo struggled against his mother’s chest; from the maniac look in her eyes, it almost looked like Shiva was sucking the soul out of the chaos spirit. Kodo saw Celine whimper and hide from the sight. He felt assured that any moment, Discord would be nothing but a skeleton with a feeble paper-like covering of skin.

“Please…” Discord breathed out, his eyes starting to roll up in his head.

“SHIVA, STOP!”

Shiva paused, and glared up at whoever dared to interrupt her. Princess Scorpia raced up next to her, followed shortly by Princess Cadence.

“It’s done,” Cadence said, indicating Tirek and the serpentine creature. “Tirek and Discord can’t fight anymore.”

“He still has his life,” Shiva snarled, looking towards Celine. “A life that he used to threaten my daughter.”

“It… was a joke…” Discord gasped out, only for Shiva to plant her foot onto the back of his neck.

Cadence paled, backing up, but Scorpia remained firm.

“And he’ll pay for it,” Scorpia insisted. “But murdering him… and murdering him in this way?” She indicated his anorexic form.

“It’s just like what Celestia told me happened with Beast Breaker,” Cadence said.

Shiva’s jaw tightened. Her grip on the pack link trembled.

“She tells a lot of ponies about me, doesn’t she?” Shiva growled.

“That was a long time ago,” Cadence insisted. “You’re not the monster that Beast Breaker wanted to turn you into. You’re a good diamond dog.”

She tried to go on, but Scorpia stopped her, watching Shiva carefully.

Shiva at first glared at Tirek and Discord, hate burning in her eyes. Discord stared up at her pleadingly. Tirek with careful caution. Finally, though, she looked over at Celine and Kodo. And Kodo felt himself relax by a fraction as he saw the love in her eyes.

She sighed, and wrapped her link around her wrist, before giving a final pull. The link faded from Discord’s neck. He struggled to all fours. Breathing. Alive.

Tirek huffed. “Just as I thought,” he muttered. “The ponies order, and you obey...”

Shining Armor kicked Tirek in the head, silencing him with a knock-out. But Kodo still shivered in his fur, looking up at Shiva as she regarded the draconequus with disgust.

Discord briefly tried to pull himself up, thudding to his chest.

“S-Something’s wrong,” Discord mumbled. He snapped his fingers, but nothing happened. “W-Where’s my magic?!”

In response, Shiva held up a ball of energy; dark with small flashes of neon through it.

Cadence backed up in alarm. “You… took his magic?” she whispered.

Tirek’s eyes fluttered open, and he grinned ominously as he saw the magic; proof that he and Shiva truly did share the same power.

“He won’t ever get to use it to hurt others again,” Shiva said darkly, crushing the magic ball in her claws. She gave one final, pondering look to Tirek, before turning to Celine. With quick steps, she picked her pup up, checking her for any sign of diamonds still in her fur. After a quick inspection, Shiva held them both to her chest with a sigh.

“Alpha Shiva,” Luke asked, stepping next to Discord’s beaten form. “What do we do with them?”

Shiva barely glanced back at the duo.

“Get those piles of filth out of this kingdom,” Shiva growled. “If they’re not out of here when I’m done talking to my children, I will murder them.”

Yet, as she walked off, Tirek chuckled.

“Careful, Howlite Howler,” Tirek called, as the ponies converged around him. “Push their authority too far… and you’ll end up in Tartarus with me.”

“Shut up!” Shining Armor growled, delivering another kick.

Yet, as the ponies hid the centaur from view, Kodo still found himself watching the centaur lord. He smiled at the pup, his words echoing in Kodo's mind.

You hold that same power, child… be careful they don’t beat you into submission too.”

“T-They wouldn’t though, would they?” Kodo thought fearfully. “Mother will stop them.”

Yet, as he looked up into his mother’s face – and remembered the fury that had been in her eyes before Cadence made her stand down – that dark part of him rose up.

“What if she can’t stop them?” It asked.

Kodo clung to his mother’s chest, yet he couldn’t stop a thought from rising in response.

“Then I’ll have to stop them for her,” he decided.

Author's Note:

So, I'll admit, I had some trouble with this chapter, and I got a lot of help from others improving it.

I want to thank OP Omni God Emporer DOOM for Tirek's speech, along with Bad Dragon, The Pinkied Wonder, Concordius Lord of Kaos, Crimmar and Emotion Nexus for helping me improve one of the core ideas in this chapter; Shiva's battle with Discord.

Please let me know if you thought it worked or not, and if I can improve it further.

Thank you all for reading, and being a wonderful audience.

Until next time,
:twilightsmile: