• Published 10th Jul 2020
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Howlite Howler 3 - JNKing

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Chapter 9: Grinning Schemes

Shiva took the pups back to their den. For a moment, she just sat against the wall, holding both of them so tightly, Kodo feared she’d break their ribs.

When she finally spoke, Kodo’s heart jumped at the fear, worry and – worst of all - anger in her voice.

“What did I tell you two?” she asked.

Celine winced. “I’m sorry…” she tried to say, but Shiva continued before Kodo could hope to speak.

“You both could’ve died!” Shiva looked up at them, her eyes desperate and almost scared. “What did I tell you!”

“S-Stay …?” Kodo asked.

Stay back and be safe,” Shiva repeated. “Is this because of your magic?” Her grip on them tightened. “How much did that help you against that monster?!”

Celine crouched behind Kodo. Despite every instinct begging him to curl into a ball and beg his mother’s forgiveness, Kodo kept himself steady. Even though his voice cracked when he spoke.

“I-It’s my fault,” he insisted. “I-I just wanted to make sure you wouldn’t get hurt.” He put himself between Shiva and Celine. “I’m the one that made Celine come along. Please don’t blame her; it’s all on me.”

Shiva’s ears flattened, and she sighed, tired. In that moment, Kodo noticed that age had not been perfect for his mother; he could see lines etched into her face. Scars that her armor attempted to hide.

“But she still chose to go with you,” she whispered.

Celine looked down with a whimper. Shiva breathed, and Kodo noticed that she was holding back tears.

“My son,” she said. “Getting hurt is a risk we can’t avoid.”

“And if I’m going to risk my life, I want to risk it for you,” Kodo insisted. “The way you risked yourself for us. Taking on that monster.” His tail wagged. “You were… amazing! Fearless! I want to be like that.”

Shiva sighed. “Oh, Kodo…” she whispered. “We only beat Discord because we had the numbers. And even then… there was a chance Tirek could have helped him beat us.” She closed her eyes. “You can say I didn’t seem scared. But the truth was… I was more afraid than I have ever been before.”

The pups blinked up at her. “You were?”

Her voice was hollow and ragged. “I thought I would lose you both.”

Celine’s lower lip quivered, and she launched into Shiva’s arms. As Shiva embraced her, Kodo noticed she was shivering. Doing everything she could to hold back the sobs that echoed freely from her daughter.

“I’m sorry, Mother,” she quivered. “I’m so sorry…”

Kodo lowered his head as mother and daughter comforted each other. He stepped back, shame overwhelming his heart, before Shiva grabbed his attention again.

“Kodo,” she whispered.

Kodo looked up, and she silently offered a claw. Taking the invitation, Kodo nuzzled up to her, and for a short moment, the small family sat there, cuddled together.

“A mother without her children is nothing,” Shiva whispered.

Kodo closed his eyes. “But a child without their mother is lost,” he whispered. His ears flared up. “Child… pack.” He looked up. “That’s what you wanted us to understand. Pack and Alpha… are like children and parents.”

Shiva smiled softly, keeping him close.

“Exactly, my son,” she whispered. “Exactly.”

Kodo nuzzled into her, the worry and heartache fading in the relief and joy of his revelation. Their moment, however, was cut off abruptly, when a knock emanated outside their den.

“Um… Alpha?” Skippy’s voice emanated. “Princess Twilight Sparkle’s here. She… has something to ask. Regarding Tirek and Discord.”

Shiva’s gaze hardened. “She’s not the only one,” she growled as she stood.

But just as she started to leave, she gazed back down at her pups, as if they were standing before two paths stretched out before her. She focused on Kodo, her brown eyes seemingly staring right into his soul. She sighed.

“I can’t do it,” she decided, more to herself than them. “I won’t leave you two alone.” She motioned for them to follow her. “Come on,” she said. “It’s time we had a talk with our ‘allies.’”

#

The throne room was charged with tension when they walked in. While Shiva situated herself on her throne - Celine and Kodo taking spots right next to her - Kodo noticed the other rulers watching them. Scorpia with concern... and Cadence and Shining Armor with nervousness. Kodo almost dared to say fear.

“Normally,” Cadence said, her voice quiet. “I’d have asked you about this case myself.”

“Maybe given us a heads up that they were coming?” Shiva added darkly.

Cadence went silent as even Scorpia gave the alicorn an injured look.

“We agreed to work together,” Scorpia added. “That means letting us know of threats to all of us. Equestria, the Hives and Outer Haven.”

“I know-I know,” Cadence said, waving Shining off when he moved to protest. “We put way too much stock in Discord, and it burned us. And I really hate to add more on you, but… Celestia insisted that Twilight handle this next part herself.”

Shiva tilted her head at her, before the purple mare herself made her appearance. Twilight’s eyes darted briefly between Kodo and Celine, before she focused on Shiva.

“Princess Sparkle,” Shiva greeted, glancing behind her. “No Elements?” Her eyes narrowed. “No Princess Celestia?”

Twilight chuckled breathlessly. “I know you… probably prefer Applejack,” she admitted. “Or Spike.” She sighed. “But this is something I have to do. Personally.”

Shiva narrowed her eyes as Twilight gave her a determined look.

“You beat Tirek and Discord,” she said. She waved a hoof before Shiva could flatten her ears. “How you did it is…”

“Because we weren’t told about them,” Shiva growled.

Twilight winced. “I mean…” she said.

“Why did we only find out about this when he was knocking on our borders?” Scorpia demanded.

“Princess Celestia… was hoping Discord would stop Tirek before it became an issue,” Twilight mumbled.

Shiva resisted baring her teeth. “And where is Princess Celestia?” she asked. “Doesn’t consider us important enough to visit herself and explain herself? She had to send you? Like we’re just another problem you can handle for her?”

“No!” Twilight insisted. “No, this…” she sighed. “It was a mistake not to tell you, and I’m sorry. On behalf of Princess Celestia, I apologize that you had to find out about Discord and Tirek that way.”

Shiva and Kodo looked at each other worriedly, as Shiva unconsciously slid Celine closer to her. Twilight’s eyes darted between them, and she sighed.

“And it pains me to add more,” Twilight continued. “But…”

But Shiva rose, and moved towards Twilight, one pup under each arm. She and the other queens watched her go.

“S-Alpha?” Twilight asked. Shiva stopped in front of her.

“I’ve watched you, Rainbow Dash and Rarity stand mutely by while Applejack, Pinkie and Fluttershy apologized on your behalf. Too many times,” Shiva growled. “I refuse to hear the words of others forced into the mouths of those who refuse to speak.”

With that, she seized Twilight’s horn, and a pack link shot between them.

“Shiva, wait!” Cadence yelped. But before she could make a move, Shiva’s magic was shrouded in a purple light… and she vanished with a pop.

“Oh, no,” Cadence whimpered. She quickly flared her own horn, and vanished with a pop of her own.

Scorpia and Shining Armor were left on their own.

“Well…” Scorpia noted. “This is cozy.”

Shining Armor groaned.

#

In the throne room of Canterlot, Celestia adjourned her court, and prepared to retire for the day. But she had barely risen off her throne before a flash of purple light flared in front of her.

“Twilight?” Celestia started to ask… only for Shiva, Twilight, Kodo and Celine to drop down in front of her. “Oh! Alpha Shiva…”

“Why didn’t you tell us?” Shiva growled.

Celestia’s wings flared. “E-Excuse me?” she asked.

“Tirek and Discord,” Shiva said, struggling not to sound impatient. “They were on the loose and you didn’t tell us!”

Celestia winced just as Cadence appeared.

“Shiva, please," Cadence begged. "Try to remain calm…”
“Stay out of this, Cadence,” Shiva snapped, turning back to Celestia. “Tirek said I’m nothing but a tool to you. A toy." Her eyes narrowed. "Is he telling the truth?”

“No!” Celestia insisted. “Shiva… you are technically part of a foreign nation. I didn’t want to trouble you with an Equestrian matter.”

“It becomes my concern,” Shiva barely was able to avoid screaming. “When that Equestrian matter goes onto my borders and attacks my children!”

Celestia’s eyes darted to the two pups clinging to Shiva’s legs.

“Your…” Celestia put a hoof to her mouth in horror. “Shiva… I had no idea…”

“It’s my fault!” Twilight yelped.

Shiva, Cadence and Celestia turned to her.

“What?” they all asked.

“It’s my fault,” she insisted, tears poking at her eyes. She looked down. “Princess Celestia… you trusted Discord to take down Tirek… because you trusted me to be a good friend to Discord. To be kind and accepting; to encourage friendship and harmony.” Her head drew lower and lower as Shiva and Celestia listened. “Instead… I pushed him away. Barely tolerated his presence. Left Fluttershy to be the only one that could pull him back instead of trying to teach him about friendship myself.” She looked up at Shiva. “Discord attacked your daughter… because he felt that we didn’t care about him.” She looked down. “Because I couldn’t show him the very thing I’m supposed to be princess of.”

Celestia’s gaze became fractured. Disappointed. “Twilight…” she whispered.

Shiva sunk down herself, holding her children close. Her gaze hardened, when she glared at Twilight.

“No matter what excuse you give,” she said. “He turned my child into a diamond statue. He could have killed her.”

Celestia opened her mouth to protest, before deciding against it, and shutting her mouth. As it was, before Shiva could continue… someone else cut her off.

“I’m fine,” Celine said softly.

Kodo, Shiva, Twilight and Celestia all looked with shock at Celine. She flinched under the added attention, but forced herself away from Shiva’s side.

“I’m alive,” she said. “Whatever Discord wanted to do, he failed.” She stepped closer. “But… if something like him… or that ‘Tirek’ person comes around again…” She stepped up to Celestia. “Please tell my mom. We don’t want to get hurt by them anymore than you do.”

Shiva reached out to pull Celine back, but the little diamond dog turned to her mother.

“Wouldn’t we help, Mother?” she insisted. “Can’t we be… friends with them?”

Shiva’s ears flattened, while Celestia and Twilight’s ears fully perked. When Celestia looked at Shiva, she had the soft doe eyes on.

“Can’t we, Shiva?” Celestia asked.

Shiva sighed.

“I’m not returning Discord’s magic,” she said. “I don’t care what his reasons were; I don’t trust him with it.”

Twilight winced, but with a stern look from Celestia, she didn’t respond. Shiva pulled Celine back to her.

“As one of the three rulers of the Crystal Empire,” Shiva said. “I’m as dedicated to Equestria’s protection as Princess Cadence or Princess Scorpia.” She lifted her head. “If there’s a threat to our security… you need to tell me.”

Celestia nodded. “From now on,” she said. “You’ll be fully informed.” She turned to Cadence. “Princess Cadence; see to it that Alpha Shiva and Princess Scorpia are warned about any and all threats. Not just to Outer Haven, but to Equestria as a whole.”

Cadence bowed. “Yes, Princess,” she said.

Shiva nodded. “Thank you.” She turned back to Twilight, and reached for her. Twilight backed up.

“I can take you home myself,” she said quickly, flaring up her horn.

As the diamond dogs were whisked away, Celestia tapped her hooves together, Celine’s last words to her echoing in her mind.

Can’t we be friends?

“Can’t we, indeed, my little diamond dog,” Celestia whispered.

#

As Twilight returned the dogs to the Crystal Empire, she gave Shiva a nervous look, before looking down at Celine.

“Um… Celine, was it?” Twilight asked.

Shiva and Kodo tensed up, but Celine gave Twilight a curious look.

“I-If it’s not too much trouble,” Twilight said. “Tirek took the magic from several unicorns. Good ponies. I was wondering…”

Instantly, Shiva put herself between Twilight and Celine.

“You can talk with me,” she said firmly.

Twilight quickly backed up. “But…” she said. “Aren’t you just going to say no?”

Shiva chuckled. “I’m going to say, ‘bring the unicorns to me.’” She turned away from Twilight. “Princess Scorpia, Princess Cadence and I will decide whether they deserve their magic back or not.”

Twilight looked down, but reluctantly nodded. “O-Okay,” she said.

Celine glanced between her mother and Twilight, before offering a small gem to the unicorn.

“I’m sure they’ll be fine,” she said. “We’re all on the same side now, right?”

Twilight took the gem with a smile, though Shiva still gave Twilight a cautious look.

“I certainly hope so,” Shiva muttered.

As they left, Shiva watched as Twilight glanced down at the gem Celine gave her. An odd little shimmer flowed along it, causing Twilight’s eyes to light up. Before Shiva could ask her what she had seen, the purple unicorn vanished in a flash of light.

#

As the diamond dogs returned home, they found Luke waiting for them. Despite him giving them a warm welcome back, Kodo could sense something… off… in his greetings. As they told him what had happened, he kept stealing glances back to Kodo, like he was the only sane one of their family.

Yet, he kept his mouth shut until the sun set and sleep beckoned to them all. And in the middle of the night, when Shiva and Celine were fast asleep, Luke made his move. Nudging Kodo awake, the diamond dog pulled his son from his mother’s side, ensuring they wouldn’t be overheard.

“Did you see it, son?” he asked.

Kodo’s ears twitched. “See what?”

“First this alliance with the Crystal Empire,” he growled. “Now Celine?” He pinched the bridge of his snout. “Tirek was right. We aren’t the ponies’ guard dogs. We’re diamond dogs. We shouldn’t have to answer to them.” Luke glared back at the thrones. “Shiva should’ve ground that ‘Discord’ into dust.”

“So… why didn’t she?” Kodo asked.

“Because the ponies didn’t want us to?” Luke growled. “And that’s what worries me.” He pulled Kodo closer, watching the sleeping Shiva conspiratorially. “Most of the other diamond dogs don’t dare say it. A lot of them don’t even think it; they don’t want to upset your mother. But the ponies are getting way too comfortable with us around.” His gaze fractured with sadness. “I love your mother, but she’s getting won over.” He glanced sadly at Celine. “Celine’s only a few months old, and she’s already getting won over too. If we don’t put a lid on this, it won’t be long before we go back to being the ponies’ slaves.”

Kodo’s ears flattened, but his dark thoughts answered.

They won’t get the chance,” Kodo felt himself promise. “And if anyone’s going to become slaves… it’s the Equestrians.”

Luke shut his eyes in relief, and released Kodo’s head.

“I’m glad you see it, at least,” he said.

#

Kodo watched Luke carefully for the next few days. Heck, he watched most of the diamond dogs for the rest of the day. Though Shiva was gone, a lot of them were still able to get by with the crystals she had powered. Most of Celine and Kodo’s day was spent learning how to empower the gems with their magic. And regularly pack-linking with the dogs in the mines to ensure everything was running smoothly.

Yet, while Kodo was supposed to note diamond dogs with thoughts that leaned towards rebellion or at the very least lashing out at the ponies, he instead noted them on a separate list. And for every stray thought worrying about the ponies taking over, he sent a thought forward.

“Lousy equines. They used to be our work horses.”

If they try anything, that’s all they will become.”

“Alpha’s getting too soft. The ponies will take her, and then us.”

“They will take neither. They will suffer if they try.”

Kodo had to be careful about it; his sister was working right alongside him, and even though she was up in the castle dealing with politics, he was sure his mother would be trying to listen in from time to time. But with each head that turned his way, hope that they weren't alone glittering in their eyes, Kodo made sure to wink and press his claw to his lips, letting them know he was on their side. That they had someone else to believe in.

“Do not fear,” he assured them. “The Iron Paws have kept us safe from changelings. The Iron Wolves will keep us safe from ponies.”

#

Celestia sighed softly, sipping a cup of tea while staring out to the North, where the Crystal Empire resided.

Cautiously, Luna poked her head onto the balcony. “Sister?” she asked. “I… heard about Shiva’s… visit.”

Celestia set her tea cup into its saucer. “Her daughter shows potential, Luna,” she admitted. “Potential that we will need, considering Discord is not getting his power back any time soon.”

“Power that he used to aid in the theft of those unicorn’s magic,” Luna pointed out.

Celestia winced. “Maybe,” she admitted, standing up. “I had truly hoped that he could be reformed. For once, my faith in Twilight was… misplaced.” She shuddered. “It hurts to merely say that fact. Though, I can hope the time it will take his chaos magic to recharge will have to be enough to teach him humility.” She walked back inside, resisting the urge to stamp in frustration. “But that day is still far off. And if something worse than Tirek comes back, who are we going to send to defend our kingdom in the mean?”

Luna tilted her head. “Twilight and her friends?” Luna answered. “Is that not your first response to any crisis?” she added teasingly.

Celestia winced. “Yes,” she admitted. “But what if she fails again. She’s failed with Discord; who knows how she would have fared with Chrysalis and Sombra? She wasn’t even allowed to handle Tirek.” She shook her head. “I thought I was prepared for what would happen, sister. I thought that Twilight was the answer. Instead, this diamond dog has interfered in Equestrian matters, and made me doubt whether Twilight is ready for the roles I expected her to play in my visions of the future…” she bowed her head. “And the one that has taken her place as our savior… is not someone I am sure we can trust with the nation’s life.” She chuckled humorlessly, looking away from the balcony. “Her child Celine would make a much more suitable ally, but even then, I must wait until she inherits the throne.” She winced, remembering the silent dark pup that had been at Shiva’s other hip. “If she inherits the throne,” she added darkly.

Luna hummed. “Well,” she said. “Why not try to earn her favor? At the very least the favor of her other heirs?”

Celestia’s laugh remained bitter, but slightly bemused. “You know Shiva better than that, Luna,” she insisted. “After what she did to Discord? She’s more liable to spear me than let me speak to her children.” She shook her head. “No. If Shiva or her children are truly going to take Twilight’s place as the saviors of Equestria, we must be far more subtle than that. We must ensure that when the day comes where we must call upon their aid, they will charge forth with passion. Not for duty or for reward… but for love. Genuine loyalty and commitment to the harmony and peace that I wish the world could just accept!”

Celestia’s ears flicked as a small humming echoed through the halls. Intrigued, Celestia set off after the hum, Luna in hot pursuit.

The two sisters reached Celestia’s bedroom, where one of the books on her shelves was vibrating and glowing softly. Celestia took the book out… and a smile creased her face as she beheld the cover.

“Luna,” Celestia mumbled, an idea forming in her mind. “You saw Shiva’s face when she came out from that mirror portal?”

“Yes,” Luna said. “She seemed… torn. As if she had known the world beyond.”

Celestia carefully opened the book, her grin widening.

“How much would you wager,” Celestia started. “That she’d want to go back?”

Author's Note:

And so, Celestia begins her schemes, unaware that she's not the only one about to try and influence our diamond dog heroes. :trollestia::trixieshiftright:

Who will end up influence the Howlite Howler? We'll find out soon enough.

Thank you again for reading. :twilightsmile: