• Published 29th Aug 2012
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Mines of Dragon Mountain - H3ph3stus



The Doctor and his friends return for another adventure!

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Mines Of Dragon Mountain Chapter 2

Apple Bloom laughed as Sweetie Belle acted out one of the stories Rarity had told her hours ago. “…So then the Judoon says ‘Bo-lo fo do-ro shum-cho!’ and he raises his gun, but Rarity magically yanked his helmet to the side so he missed!”

Apple Bloom nodded and began to mime also. “Yeah! An’ then Applejack ran forward ‘n’ kicked him square in the chops! Hi-yah! Yah!” Apple Bloom said as she clumsily mimed a series of kicks and jabs. “An’ the Judoon didn’t even know what hit ‘im!”

Scootaloo blinked slowly, an unimpressed look on her face. “Have you fillies been eating forest mushrooms again?”

“One time!” Sweetie Belle exclaimed.

“No Scoots, we’s serious! Applejack ‘n’ Rarity all told the same story!” Apple Bloom said defensively.

“But you saw Applejack last night, Bloom! She couldn’t have gone off and done all that!”

Sweetie Belle smiled and waved a hoof. “No see, The Doctor’s TARDIS is also a time machine, it can go anywhere, anywhen!”

“Yeah!” Apple Bloom said triumphantly. “They was out fer a month but came back this morning!”

“So…” Scootaloo said, hoof to her chin. “If they were out for a month, but traveled back in time to this morning, that means they’re still out there right now on their second day of traveling even though they came back this morning after a month?”

Sweetie Belle put a hoof to her forehead and rubbed. “Owww…”

“And you can prove this?” Scootaloo said with a smile.

“Sure ah can! Applejack brought back all this cool stuff from alien worlds!”

Scootaloo rolled her eyes. “Cool stuff? May I see it?”

“…No, Applejack took her bag with her this morning.” Apple Bloom said dejectedly.

“But what we’re telling you is really truly true!” Sweetie Belle said with a stomp of her hoof.

“How’d they all fit in there?” Scootaloo said with a shake of her mane. “I saw that thing! It was tiny!”

“Rarity said it was bigger on the inside…and really cheesy looking, too!” Sweetie Belle added.

“Uh-huh.” Scootaloo scoffed. “So, lemme get this straight; that weird blue box that fell out of the sky on Wednesday was not only a space ship but a time machine, and not only that it’s also bigger on the inside?”

“Yeah!” Sweetie said with a nod.

“Applejack wouldn’t lie tah me!” Apple Bloom said with certainty.

Scootaloo looked back and forth between them. “It was the green mushrooms right? I’ve always wanted to try those!”

“No mushrooms!” Sweetie Belle shouted.

There was a loud knock on the door followed by a high-toned inquisitive voice. “Applejack? Applejaaaaack! Hello? It’s me, The Doctor! You home? All that business with the Minponi got sorted out…kind of…”

Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle gasped and rushed to the door and opened it. Before them was a startled looking stallion, but the look of surprise soon gave way to a bright smile. “Apple Bloom! Sweetie Belle! It’s great to finally meet you! Your sisters have told me so much!”

Apple Bloom beamed and stepped forward. “Doctor! Oh wow! Ah’ve heard so much about you too!”

“Me too!” Sweetie Belle exclaimed excitedly. “Can we see your TARDIS?”

“Ah wanna see yer sonic hex-key!”

“Screwdriver.” The Doctor corrected. “They told you all that?”

“Yep.”

“Uh-huh!”

“And you believed them?” The Doctor said, his eyebrow raised.

“Sure!”

“’Course!”

The Doctor smiled widely. “This is why I love kids…anyway, Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle…” Scootaloo arrived at the door. “…Errrm…uuh…noun-verb or noun-noun? …Orange…Buzz?”

“Scootaloo.” She said flatly.

The Doctor raised a hoof to his mouth to stifle a laugh. “*Snerk* phhht-What, really?”

“What’s wrong with ‘Scootaloo’?” she said defensively.

The Doctor suddenly donned a serious expression. “Nothing at all! Scootaloo is a perfectly reasonable name for a pony who…uh…scoots. Who am I to talk with a name like mine? ‘Teh Dok-Tah’ perfectly silly!”

Scootaloo smiled furtively and The Doctor cheered. “Eh! There we go! Anyway, do you girls know where your sisters and their friends are? I’ve checked everywhere, not even Twilight is in!”

Apple Bloom piped up. “Applejack an’ Rarity an’ all them left with some rich guy, Applejack said it was on ‘fficial business!”

The Doctor turned to Scootaloo. “And Rainbow Dash too?”

Scootaloo looked down at the ground. “…I guess, Rainbow Dash isn’t my sister so I wouldn’t know…”

“Oh…” The Doctor said, clearing his throat awkwardly. “Sorry, I thought that…uuuh…with ‘some rich guy’ you say?”

“Yeah! He dropped into town in his big white blimp and took them all away to a resort for business!” Sweetie Belle said.

“Ah think it was an airship Sweetie, not a blimp.” Apple Bloom said matter-of-factly.

“What’s the difference?” Sweetie retorted.

Apple Bloom rolled her eyes. “Plenty! An airship, or dirigible, is a ridged-bodied lighter ’n’ air aircraft first constructed by diamond dogs about a hundred years ago. They usually use segmented chambers fer their lift gas and have a lightweight cast-duralumin skeleton. But judging by the way that airship moved about and how big it was ah’d be inclined to say it was made of lightweight composite materials tah better use the lift gas…a blimp is basically a funny shaped balloon.” Everyone stared at Apple Bloom. “What? Ah just like stuff like that is all.”

“I didn’t know ponies had airships.” The Doctor muttered.

Apple Bloom rolled her eyes. “Well a’course we don’t have ‘em! A third a’ the pony population can fly, why would we need ‘em? No see, it’s the diamond dogs what need ‘em, so they built ‘em.”

“Getting off topic here…” The Doctor said, rubbing his hoof against his head. “So, where did they all go?”

“Dragon Valley.” Sweetie Belle said quickly. “Home of not only the wealthiest mining community in Equestria, but also one of the most biologically diverse bird, lizard, and fish populations in the world! The world famous Dragon Mountain Resort has all the creature comforts necessary to make your stay a memorable one!” Sweetie Belle gauged the response from those around her before saying. “…I read the brochure.”

The Doctor smiled and winked at them. “Thank you girls! Now, I best be off if I want to catch up to them!”

“Catch up? Don’t you have a time machine?” Scootaloo said sarcastically.

The Doctor turned around with a smirk. “Why yes, yes I do.”

He stomped his hoof on the ground and a large blue box plummeted from the sky, kicking up a huge amount of dust as it landed. Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo ran over to the cloud of dust only to see a door slam shut.

“Doctor! Doctor!” Sweetie said as she beat on the door. “Don’t leave yet!”

The door opened and The Doctor poked his head out. “What is it?”

“Can we come with you?” Apple Bloom said excitedly.

The Doctor smiled leaned in close. “Ask your sisters when they get back. If I take you lot now and possibly endanger you there’s a high probability of one or both of them will…well…murder me. G’bye!”

With that The Doctor closed the door with a slam and an incredible noise began, bright pulses of light emanated from the bulb on top in tandem with waves of hot energized air as the TARDIS flashed out of existence, the dust blasting out in all directions. Scootaloo stood in stunned silence as the sound wore away into nothingness.

Sweetie Belle laughed and nudged up against her. “See? No mushrooms!”

(Dah-da-da-da/ /dah-da-da-da/ /dah-da-da-da/ /dah-da-da-da etc)


DOCTOR WHOOVES

Episode 2

The Mines of Dragon Mountain: Part 2

Starring:

The Doctor

Twilight Sparkle

Pinkie Pie

Rainbow Dash

Applejack

Fluttershy

Zecora

Rarity

Spike

Featuring:

Zeitgeist Stardust

Litigia Statute

The Brünhild thundered steadily over the clouds, her bulk belying her speed. Through on of the windows that dotted the carriage structure peered a small, purple head.

“I can’t believe it! This thing is so cool!” Twilight said excitedly.

Applejack nodded and smiled. “Ah have tah agree with you Twi, this here ship’s the swankiest thing this side a’the royal palace! Big too, ah wonder where Pinkie, Spike, and Zecora wandered off to?”

Fluttershy looked at the fish tank in the wall with fascination. “Pinkie and Spike said that they were going to find a bathroom, Zecora followed them to make sure they stayed out of trouble-Oh! Is that a Rainbow Parrot Fish? And a Regal Tang! And a Psychedelic Mandarin! Wow!”

“What’s so great about it Twilight?” Rainbow Dash said dismissively. “You’ve seen ships that travel faster than light, what’s so great about a big balloon?”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “The same reason you want to fly over Mount Calcipher even though you’ve flown around in gas giants! It’s the best of what we know.”

“Indeed she is!” said a familiar voice from behind them. “My Brünhild is the most advanced vehicle on the face of the planet! The most expensive one, too.” Standing in the doorway was Zeitgeist Stardust and Litigia Statute.

Twilight bowed. “Mr. Stardust! Let me say again how much of an honor it is to be spending the weekend with you sir.”

He smiled and gestured fondly. “Think nothing of it, Ms. Sparkle. As a dedicated patron of my magitech products, I should be thanking you. Also, do call me Zeit, I get enough ‘Mr. Stardust’ from my employees…weren’t there more of you?”

Rarity nodded and said. “Yes, there are. They’re around somewhere, on a ship this size I imagine getting lost is quite easy.”

“Quite.” He said with a nod. “I’m not too proud to say that it has happened to me once or twice. Now, I believe it is only a common courtesy as a host that I personally take you on a guided tour of my flagship. Are there any questions any of you have before we begin the tour?”

“Okay Zit, here’s one…” Rainbow Dash said, flying over to the white diamond dog. “…Care to tell us why we’ve cut across two air zones in the past hour? Also the fact that we’re going at least fifty klicks faster than what your lawyer said!”

Rarity gasped and less-than-gently nudged Rainbow Dash. “Dash! Show some respect!” she turned to Zeit and smiled apologetically. “Er-excuse Rainbow Dash, she’s a little bullheaded and doesn’t think when she talks!”

“Hey!”

Zeit smiled again and gestured dismissively. “No need to apologize. One doesn’t get to where I am with thin skin, Ms. Rarity.”

“You’re too kind.” Rarity said with a bow.

“Far too kind.” Litigia said flatly, garnering a ‘hush’ from Zeit.

Zeit cleared his throat as he eyed Rainbow Dash, something close to unease in his eyes. “To answer your question, there has been a slight change of plans that require we forgo common aerial courtesies. Consequently the trip will be considerably shorter, thirteen hours at most, less than eleven at current speed.” Zeit turned to the ponies and clapped his hands, eager to change the subject. “Now, how would you girls like a guided tour of my newest ship? A light lunch of your choosing will be served afterwards.”

Litigia sighed in exasperation. “Sir, I don’t think that’s a-”

“Litigia…I believe there is some paperwork for you to fill out on my desk. It’s in my privacy office…” Zeit said with a smile. “…If I remember correctly.”

“But that’s on the other end of the ship!” She said with growing irritation.

“Is it?” Zeit said with faux surprise. “Well, you’d better make tracks now if you want to fill it all out by lunch time.”

“…ck you, sir…” she mumbled as she walked out the door.

“Language!” He said before he turned to the ponies with a smile. “How about that tour, hmmm?”

As they walked through the ornate hallways of the airship, Twilight examined the various interesting pieces of technology that dotted the walls. Cameras, closed circuit telecommunication screens, long-lived light crystals; nearly everything was of the highest grade imaginable. Including the decorations, the floors were lined with an expensive, soft carpet that was both easy on the hooves, increased traction, and boasted an intricate design both colorful and subdued. The windows were gilded with silver and gold molding that glittered in the high-altitude sunlight. The walls were lined with old oil paintings and expertly carved marble statues sat in alcoves in the walls every three meters.

“Beautiful, isn’t she?” Zeit began. “Three hundred and thirty-five meters long by fifty meters wide, exactly two-hundred tons of technological innovation! Many of the systems and materials you will see are of my own design. The use of sturdy composite materials ensures that the Brünhild will not succumb to wear and tear within the next century. Expensive, but worth it in the long run, I think.”

“Even the engines?” Twilight said excitedly.

“Especially the engines!” He said with a wink. “Would it interest you to know that the propulsion systems on the Brünhild have no moving parts whatsoever?”

“No!” Twilight said incredulously. “How’d you do that?”

He chuckled and continued, obviously liking her enthusiasm. “The engine nacelles house enormous spell-medium crystals, specifically wind-spell crystals. Power flows through the crystals and activates the spell that accelerates the surrounding air that in turn provides thrust proportionate to the power input. No moving parts to wear down and it’s extremely energy efficient.” Zeit said proudly. “The Brünhild’s engines are powerful enough to accelerate a mass of over five hundred and fifty tons to speeds of two hundred kilometers per hour, which is roughly the Brünhild’s maximum takeoff weight.”

“That’s amazing! How do you power them?” Twilight said, running up to his side excitedly.

“I think you’ll find this particularly interesting. The skin of the Brünhild can shift from white to black, absorbing and utilizing nearly 85% of the solar energy impacting her surface. Using an experimental capacitance gel we managed to store all the energy from one day in the sun, allowing her to run while maintaining her more photogenic visage. It’s a technology I hope will catch on…once I get approval from Celestia, of course.”

Twilight looked out the window at one of the huge engine nacelles, the telltale glow of magic radiating from the intake ports, a huge smile on her face. “I think I could drop in a good word for you! How high can she go?”

“Her gas bags expand enough to lift her dry weight to an altitude of about eight kilometers.” Zeit said before adding. “But she can go higher with some risk.”

Rarity piped up, drawing attention away from Twilight as Applejack whispered in her ear. “I have to say I’m in awe of your internal decorating, they’re all different statues, are they not?”

Zeit nodded. “My entire family line, over two hundred and fifty statues in the main halls of this ship! I had two hundred and fifty of the best sculptors working on each of them separately, so each statue has it’s own unique attributes.”

“Representing the different personalities of each person the statue is based on.” Rarity said in awe. “This is a truly elegant design philosophy, not like…anyway what kind of paintings are these?”

“Emperor Beowulf Era, he had a love for oil-paintings and decreed that all previous art was inferior and was to be destroyed…so many people died…” He said, looking over at the paintings. “…But they’re still rather chic, aren’t they?”

Zeit and Rarity continued to talk as they went down the hallway; Rarity drawing Zeit’s attention while Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Twilight had stopped at the behest of Applejack.

Twilight opened her mouth to say something before Applejack silenced her, motioning to a door to their left, it was rather small and had been painted over to mask its presence, obviously somewhere they weren’t meant to be. Its lock took Twilight mere seconds to overcome. They stepped into the door and into a low ceilinged area of grated metal and various pipes, Applejack looked around at the ceiling.

“Applejack, what’s this all about?” Twilight said in a whisper.

“Ah just thought we could use some time away from the cameras, talk ‘bout what we’ve seen…what they don’t want us to see.”

“You noticed it too?” Fluttershy said gravely.

Applejack nodded as Twilight said. “What are you mares on about?”

Rainbow Dash snorted. “C’mon Twilight! I know you’re excited about this airship thing, but you couldn’t have missed it!”

“Missed it?” Twilight blinked as her friends stared at her. “Missed what?”

“Just the fact that there’s somethin’ really wrong going on, that there’s somethin’ rotten at Dragon Valley!”

Fluttershy nodded. “Something’s happening that has got Mr. Stardust angry, maybe even a little scared.”

“And it’s got something to do with whatever’s got him in a hurry!” Rainbow Dash added.

Twilight furrowed her brow; a part of her knew they were onto something. “Okay…what do you think is going on?”

Applejack rolled her eyes in frustration. “Well, a’course we don’t know anything. But it’s just like The Doctor says, we gotta hear what they aren’t sayin’! An’ right now ah hear a lot!”

“Yeah!” Rainbow Dash said. “He puts on that happy face and uses those fancy words, but he’s avoiding a certain topic like the plague! I saw it in his eyes when I asked him about why we’re in such a hurry.”

“The mine…” Twilight said with dawning realization.

“What is it Twilight?” Fluttershy said.

“The mine, the mines of Dragon Mountain!”

Rainbow Dash looked over at Twilight. “What’re those?”

“The place I was talking about in the boutique when he first came in!” Twilight sighed and tried to remember the details. “One of the two major mountains that gives Dragon Valley its unique appearance. One mountain is the actively volcanic Mount Calcipher; it’s the tourist attraction, with the hot springs and all that. The other, Mount Calcipher-Del-Kaffelerram, that’s where the mines are located. It’s been said it was just another pick and scratch operation until he took it over, and now sixteen years later it’s the source of nearly all technology-grade crystals in Equestria! He was rich before, but his success with that mine made him famous.”

Applejack nodded, her hoof to her chin. “Now what d’you suppose coulda happened at the mine that would get the CEO himself tah haul flank across the continent?”

“He can communicate just fine with his magitech.” Rainbow Dash added. “So this is something big, something he feels he needs to be there for.”

Fluttershy turned to Twilight. “It couldn’t be an accident or a worker’s strike, he must put up with stuff like that every day! If what you say is true, this mine is very important to him and not just financially.”

“You’re right, this is probably personal.” Twilight said with a nod. “There’s something going on there, at that mine, something that could not only shut it down, but maybe disgrace it too.”

Applejack put her hoof down with a clank. “So it’s settled then? Once we get there we look into things?”

Twilight sighed and shook her head. “Do have to get involved? I mean, we’re being taken to a Six-Star resort for free! Can’t we just sit this one out and relax?”

Rainbow Dash chuckled as she made her way over to the door. “You say that now but trust me, this whole set up seems awful familiar to me. We set down in a new and interesting place with all sorts of stuff to occupy ourselves with, and then something happens; someone screams, a child is crying, weird lights, whatever. It doesn’t matter what it is, because in the end it’s the same. We’re drawn into an adventure, not because we have to, or even because we really want to, but because it’s there.”

Applejack smirked as she opened the door. “Now if ah didn’t know any better ah’d say you’re talkin’ like a certain someone we know!”

“What we’ve been through has that affect on a pony.” Fluttershy said with a furtive smile. “The world will always seem small to us now, so we’re drawn to its mysteries and adventures to make it seem big again. If just for a while.”

Twilight sighed, that heavy feeling of dread settling on her shoulders again as she exited the door. ‘It’s like that for them too…I hope you come back Doctor! We haven’t seen enough, we haven’t done enough, showing us all that and then just leaving us here…’

“Excuse me madams.” Said a deep cultured voice. “Enjoying the tour?”

They all looked up to see four large diamond dogs; one of them was Feist, the bodyguard that had been in the boutique.

“Uuuh…” Twilight stammered.

“Rhetorical question.” He said tersely. “Dogs, escort these…fine mares to His Excellency’s dining room.”

Flanked on all sides by diamond dogs several times their size, Twilight, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy were led down the hall. “Your friends will be waiting there for you.”

Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Twilight, and Fluttershy were ushered into the room. In the middle of the room was a large ebony wood table covered with fine silver gilded linen. The walls were decorated with large tapestry of various depictions of festivals, battles, and historical events.

“Pre-tee swank!” said a familiar voice.

Twilight turned to see Spike, Pinkie Pie, and Zecora examining the decorations. “Spike?”

He turned to her and smiled. “Isn’t this ship cool? I mean it’s literally like a flying palace!”

“Yeah…” Rainbow Dash said slowly. “Say, why would a CEO have a ship this nice? I know they like to show off their wealth, but this is something royalty would buy!”

“Well, he is royalty.” Twilight said glibly.

“What, really?” said Spike.

Twilight nodded before pausing. “Yes…actually, kind of. He’s regent of the Duchy of Sternenstaub in his home country, which makes him a duke. So he’s just short of actual royalty. However, he’s a good deal richer than most of the higher nobility, so it goes without saying that he’d make any status symbol he has as amazing as possible.”

Pinkie hopped around the room, appraising the myriad vases and sculptures. “If you don’t flaunt what you got in an imperial court, you get eaten alive! And boy howdy does he flaunt!”

Zecora made her way over to Twilight, moving her head close to hers. “During our walk within the halls, I heard some talking through the walls. When we tried to listen closer, the guards had ‘offered’ to be our chauffeurs.”

Twilight nodded. “They’re a little cagey aren’t they?”

The door on the other side of the room opened and Zeit and Rarity walked in. Zeit’s expression lit up as he saw the ponies, while Rarity donned an accusatory look obviously not approving of their behavior but helping anyway. “Ah! I see all our lost guests found their way to the dining room. Never underestimate the allure of free lunch, Ms. Rarity.”

“That and an efficient security force.” Rarity muttered.

“Well, yes…anyway, take a seat everyone, the menus will be handed out momentarily.” Zeit said, pulling out a chair for himself.

The ‘chairs’ for the ponies were actually large beanbags that stuck out of the floor; they were surprisingly comfortable whilst being firm enough to support their weight, as with everything else on the ship the material appeared to be something as expensive as it was functional.

Spike clambered onto his soft pillow chair his claws sinking into the surface, tearing it instantly and spilling its contents onto the floor. “Uuh…could I have a chair?”

Zeit’s eyes widened. “A baby dragon?”

Twilight looked over at Spike as he hung off the edge of the table. “Oh…I suppose you haven’t met Spike yet!”

He got up and walked over to Spike, a broad smile on his face. “Why hello there! Spike was it?”

“Yeah…” Spike said, eyes shifting around. “…Could I have a chair?”

“Of course.” Zeit said, signaling to some servants before turning back to Spike. “Would you also like some gemstones to for lunch?”

Spike nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah! That’d be great! Do you have any rubies?”

“More than you can eat.”

Twilight chuckled. “Famous last words.”

The ponies sat around the table as the staff served them their food, a somewhat confused servant holding a large china bowl filled with rubies. Applejack had ordered a home-style baked potato with a side of hay fries; Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie both got an oats and spinach salad with violet petals; Rarity and Fluttershy shared a strawberry spinach and feta cheese salad with a tangy vinaigrette sauce. Zeit was enjoying some sort of omelette while the plate of fried apple slices and daisies sat to his right, untouched.

Twilight looked up from her immaculate daffodil sandwich, the chefs had clearly prepared for ponies before. “Mr. Star-er-Zeit, who is that plate for?”

He looked up at her and smirked, holding up his paw and counting down on his fingers from three. “…Two…One.”

The door to the dining room opened and in stepped Litigia, her usually prim and proper mane a little frazzled and the remnants of sweat was still visible across her hairline, she had been in a hurry and had had a long way to run.

“Ms. Statute.” He said fondly. “Please, come sit and have lunch.”

“Thank you Mr. Stardust.” She said through partially gritted teeth.

“You got the paper-work done, I trust?” He said, adding a dash of salt to his meal.

“Indeed sir.” She said, sniffing her meal with relish, she was obviously famished. “My request for a transfer has once again been rejected, and I noticed on the last page someone had written something to the effect of ‘neener-neener-neener’ in legalese.”

“We have such fun.” Zeit said with a laugh.

A loud burp was heard from across the table, accompanied by a flash of green fire. “…’scuse me.”

“Ah yes! I’ve just recently met young Spike here.” Zeit cast a wary eye over Litigia. “Charming young fellow…you didn’t tell me we had a dragon on board.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t realize the implications at the time.” Litigia said with growing concern. “Do you think this will be an issue?”

“Why would it be?” Twilight said; things seemed to have taken a worrying turn.

“Nothing dangerous, Ms. Sparkle! Quite the opposite in fact, the native residents of Dragon Valley are quite infatuated with dragons and there may be a bit of a…fuss. They never get to see dragons because…well, you know.”

“No…” Twilight lied, detecting a golden opportunity to gauge Zeitgeist. “…I’m afraid we don’t.”

Zeit set down his knife and fork and cleared his throat. “Well…legend has it that Dragon Valley is where the Dragon God Calcipher sleeps. Told of the legend by the parents, most dragons avoid the place as they would the lair of a larger sleeping dragon, but I take it Spike was raised by ponies?”

“His egg was a donation from a sickly dragoness who wished for him to have a loving home. He’s been with me since he hatched.” She said, before turning the conversation back to where she wanted it to go. “…So, Calcipher sleeps in Dragon Valley?”

Zeit chuckled and made a dismissive gesture. “That’s just the native’s explanation for why one of the mountains occasionally snorts smoke and fire. An Elder God does not literally slumber beneath the mountain.”

Twilight grinned on the inside. “Which mountain would that be? I always get them confused!”

“Mount Calcipher…” Zeit said, ears displaying low-level suspicion.

“Right, right! Calcipher-Del-Kaffelerram is where your mine is, isn’t it?” Rainbow Dash interjected, subtlety as alien a concept to her as manners are to parasprites. “Funny name, that. What’s the story?”

Zeit cleared his throat, he had an excellent poker face but after their adventures the seven friends had become very adept at seeing through deception. “It’s native.”

“Native for…” Rainbow Dash said eagerly.

“Well, ‘Del’ is a possessive adjective, and in the native grammar one always puts the possessors name before the possessive adjective…” Zeit said, before sighing and continuing. “…And ‘kaffelerram’, politely translated, means…‘latrine’. The mountain’s wealth of gems has been known for centuries, the natives chalked this up to Calcipher, being the god of all dragons, having a…rich diet.”

Spike continued chewing his gems. “Makes sense…what’s a ‘latrine’?”

Zecora leaned towards Spike and whispered in his ear, Spike’s eyes went wide with horror. The ponies all chuckled as Spike turned a lighter shade and pushed the bowl away, hand to his mouth. Twilight looked over at Zeitgeist who was whispering to Litigia, they had caught on faster than she had hoped. No matter, she and her friends now knew that something was under Zeitgeist’s skin, and it definitely had something to do with that mine. All they had to do was wait and see.

The Doctor pulled a switch on the TARDIS control console as it bucked and whirled. “Aaaaand…There! A little off, 8:00 PM local time…I must be losing my touch!”

The whirling sound stopped with an audible ‘thunk’ as The Doctor smiled and turned around. “Another happy landing, eh…” he said, before realizing there was no one there with him. “…nopony?”

The Doctor sighed, surprised at how much he had missed those equines over the past relative week, that business with the Minponi had taken a little more…effort than anticipated. The Warrior Caste held a not-undeserved reputation for holding a grudge, and this time it had cost them dearly. The Doctor didn’t like putting arrogant prats in their place, but there was a certain satisfaction to be had in letting the air out of a so-called ‘enigmatic’ and ‘advanced’ culture. By the time he was through the Warrior Caste had some explaining to do with regards to how a warehouse holding five thousand tons of valuable quantium-40 got vaporized from orbit on official orders. Needless to say there were enough accusations and scandal to discredit the military into political obscurity for the next few centuries. ‘A job well done. A pity Rainbow Dash wasn’t there, she’d have loved to see the fireworks!’

The Doctor opened the door and stepped out into an alleyway. He looked out to see the well-lit, clean streets of a high-end pony town, or what was meant to look very much like a high-end pony town. The Doctor stepped out of the alley and into the streets; there were dozens of ponies young and old, mares and stallions, fillies and colts. The only thing they all had entirely in common was that every single one of them was appallingly wealthy, not that one could tell from the overabundance of Hawaiian style shirts and awful hats.

“Is there some kind of multiversal law stating that tourists must be fashion victims?” The Doctor wondered aloud.

“Apparently.” Said a voice from behind. “Do you need some assistance? I ask because I just saw you coming out of that alley looking a little…”

The Doctor spun around to see a unicorn stallion wearing what was unmistakably a uniform. The stallion had a sort of marble colored coat with a subdued red mane and orange eyes, his broad smile hid a slight tinge of apprehension. “…Out of sorts…hello, I’m Fire Dazzler, I make the…”

“Pyrotechnics displays and special effects for the nightly shows.” The Doctor finished.

“Y-yes…how did you…”

“There is a fine residue on your collar from a premature flash-powder ignition, you’re lucky you didn’t lose an eyebrow. Also, your coat is saturated with aluminum powder and there are trace amounts of expired potassium chlorate on your hooves. Not to mention the rather copious amounts of bicarbonate-based buffers present in the fabrics of your uniform, likely the result of trying to stabilize acid levels in a homemade aluminum- potassium chlorate mixture; trying and failing, hence the premature detonation. Also…” The Doctor said, sniffing the air curiously. “…Do I detect a hint of magnesium-polytetrafluoroethylene?”

The stallion smiled furtively. “It burns really bright, a few pellets here and there in a mix makes for some really dazzling flashers.”

The Doctor whistled. “You know your stuff there don’t you? That’s not strictly legal, and for good reason; too much and you’ve got yourself a self-oxidizing magnesium mixture everywhere!”

“I manage…” Fire Dazzler said as he gestured at his flank, showing a cutie-mark of a fantastic explosion. “It is my calling in life, you know!”

The Doctor smiled broadly. “Ponies…you have it so easy! No fuss, no muss, just one day ‘boom’ and you have a little tattoo on your arse telling you what you like. Built to be happy, you lot! Brilliant design by the way, all I got is a boring old hourglass!”

Fire Dazzler blinked in confusion before asking. “Well, here I’ve been talking about myself. May I ask who you are, sir?”

The Doctor pulled out his psychic paper and held it out. “Time Line, Department of Health and Safety. Pleased to meet you Mr. Dazzler.”

The unicorn blanched his white coat even further. “O-oh Celestia…I don’t mix in PTFE into the mix often, honestly, I swear on my mother’s mane!”

The Doctor donned a serious expression. “That’s a serious violation, Mr. Dazzler. People come to this resort to be wowed, not burned alive.”

“P-please! This could mean my job!” Dazzler begged.

“It will mean your job unless…” The Doctor said with a smile. “…You give me a guided tour of the place…and cover my dinner bill.”

Fire Dazzler looked up at the Doctor, the look of panic giving way to relief. “Wh-whuh…sure! Anything!”

The Doctor winked. “Glad to hear it!”

The two ponies walked up the panorama walkway at the edge of the resort. The resort had been built at the mouth of the valley, elevated exactly thirty-five meters above the valley floor, it had a sprawling view of the entire valley. The middle of the valley was the picture of natural paradise with no less than ten rain-fed waterfalls feeding into a pristine lake that sparkled even in the moonlight. Lining this ten-kilometer long by three-kilometer wide lake were dazzling white sand beaches broken up by cliff sides ideal for climbing and diving. A lush green forest surrounded the lake, it blanketed the four-kilometer space between the lakeside and the mountains, the calls of hundreds of hundreds of different kinds of birds could be heard even late into the night. Perhaps fittingly, surrounding Eden was two of the most ominous geological formations in all of Equestria. Marking east and west were two large mountains that jutted out of the landscape like teeth. The tallest was a huge stratovolcano with an open glowing maw on the western side of the valley; the various peaks around it looking like smaller teeth surrounding an intimidating fang. The easternmost mountain was a truly sinister looking jet-black spire, several large chunks of carbonized rock jutted out like spines, cruel barbs on the stinger of an enormous insect.

‘There are some things that scream ‘do not touch!’ That mountain is the exclamation point to that phrase!’ The Doctor thought to himself as he took another mouthful from the feedbag around his neck.

“…And over there is the Missing Mountain Lake, all the water you see is pure rainwater, no streams in. Because of this the water is the clearest in all of Equestria!”

The Doctor lifted his head from the honey-oat and rose-petal filled feedbag around his neck. “Mmmph…*gulp*…’scuse me. Ahem, why do they call it ‘Missing Mountain Lake’?”

Dazzler smiled and gestured at the larger of the two mountains flanking the valley. “There is Mount Calcipher, at its peak its around four kilometers above sea level…” he gestured to the mountain on the east side of the valley. “…And that is Mount Calcipher-Del-Kaffelerram, at its peak it’s about two kliks above sea level.” He then gestured to the lake.

The Doctor nodded, chewing another mouthful of oats. “Missing Mountain Lake is three kilometers deep, I take?”

Fire Dazzler nodded. “Yep! It even has an inverted widows peak, the very bottom of the lake converges on a single point no more than four meters wide!”

The Doctor regarded the surrounding geology. “Hmmm…that mountain shouldn’t exist.”

“…What do you mean?”

“Well…” The Doctor began. “…See, this whole place is basically a big ol’ slab of rock known as a shield. Shields are the most geologically stable places on any given planet. Now, what is a big ol’ smoking, fire-spitting, red flag for geological instability?”

Fire Dazzler paused before guessing. “…A volcano?”

The Doctor nodded. “Very good. And what does this valley-on-a-shield have?”

“A volcano.”

The Doctor smiled. “Right again! Now you say ‘maybe there’s a hotspot here’. No! Hotspots generally result in shield volcanoes that, ironically, don’t happen on shields. Mount Calcipher is a stratovolcano in the middle of a shield thick enough to hold a three-kilometer deep crater lake. That. Is. A. No-no.” He said before pointing at Mount Calcipher-Del-Kaffelerram. “But I’ll look into that later. Tell me about that mountain, the sinister looking carbon-black one you call ‘Calcipher’s Dung-Heap’, why’s it called that?”

“You speak the language of the Narragansetts?” Dazzler said with amazement.

“Sure, why not.” The Doctor said before taking another mouthful. “Whph ih kalld tha?”

Dazzler shrugged and said. “I think it’s called that because of all the gemstones in it.”

“Yeah, that helps.” The Doctor said impatiently. “What does that have to do with the, er, the…dung part?”

“Well, dragons eat gemstones.” Fire Dazzler said matter-of-factly.

“What, really?”

“Yeah! They’re like candy to ‘em! They can chew them up or dissolve them in their mouths. It’s amazing! Anyway Calcipher, being the Dragon God, ate a lot of gems so Calcipher’s Dung-Heap is lousy with ‘em.”

“Quod Erat Demonstrandum.” The Doctor said, somewhat put off his meal.

“That’s also where the mine is. That’s why you’re here, right?”

“Eh? Oh yeah, that big ol’ mine, mining things…and stuff.” The Doctor said looking at Fire Dazzler. “Wanna come?”

Fire Dazzler jumped in surprise. “What?! To the mine?”

“Yeah.”

“The mine. The mine full of mean snarling diamond dog miners?”

“Yeah.”

“The mine full of mean snarling diamond dog miners who’d eat a pony like me for breakfast?!”

“…Yeah.”

Dazzler scoffed in amazement. “I’m sorry, I have to say no. I-I can’t just run off with some weirdo to do Celestia knows what in a dangerous cursed mine!”

“Cursed you say?” The Doctor said, a smirk spreading across his features. “That sounds like fun.”

“You’re insane!” Dazzler exclaimed with shock.

“Yeah!” The Doctor said, a grin on his face.

Fire Dazzler opened his mouth to retort before he was silenced and was blown off his hooves by an explosive blast of energized air.

The stallion spun about and looked up, eyes wide. “What is that?!”

Fire Dazzler slowly clambered to his hooves, shaking his head in confusion. “I don’t know, it was like some kind of freak…wind or…somethi…”

Above their heads and drifting towards the resort town was a huge bright white airship. It hovered over the small city, dwarfing the many buildings it quietly glided over. Its engines occasionally blasting air to adjust course and slow the huge ship, glowing with whatever arcane forces that had been harnessed to move such a thing. It was a personalized ship, the undercarriage looking more like a portion of a large building had been expertly and seamlessly crafted onto the leviathan lifting body, the forwards facing portion of the under carriage smoothed and streamlined. It spun around a full one-eighty before lining itself up with a mooring mast.

“Wow!” Fire Dazzler said, eyes wide with excitement. “That’s Mr. Stardust’s airship! I’ve seen it a few times from afar, but it’s never docked in the city while I’ve been here!”

“Mr. Stardust!” The Doctor stepped forward; his eyes widening as jubilant expression crossed his face. “Brilliant!”

He sped off towards the airship, Fire Dazzler sighed. “What about the mine…? Hey! Wait up!”

He took off after The Doctor, eventually catching up with him. They ran astride each other as they deftly avoided spellbound ponies. A crowd began to form behind them as fascinated ponies began to take their lead and follow them.

“H-hey!” Fire Dazzler said. “Hey, Mr. Line!”

“Yes?” The Doctor responded, eyes bright.

“Who are you? Really?”

The Doctor laughed and increased speed. “I’m The Doctor and there’s something strange about this place! Want to help me find out what?”

Fire Dazzler blinked for a moment before shaking his head. “I’m sorry, I’ve got a job to do!”

“Then why are you following me?”

“I’ve got to see what this is all about!” He shouted over the increasingly loud din of the crowd that had gathered around the mooring tower.

The Doctor threw his head back and laughed. “That’s the spirit!”

The Brünhild descended from the twilight sky, even in the dark its brilliant white body seemed to glow and shine. The huge airship lined up with a mooring mast in the middle of the resort and began its final descent. A small conglomeration of ponies gathered around the mooring tower, watching the incredible vehicle as it lowered itself to the ground. The crowd beneath it parted as the ramp began to lower, it set down on the cobbled stone street with a loud clank.

Zeitgeist Stardust sauntered down the ramp arm raised in a wave, a gesture that was greeted by a fusillade of camera flashes from reporters and tourists alike. Twilight and her friends began a slow decent down the ramp.

Twilight reached Zeitgeist first. “Let me say again, thank you so much for your generosity. If there’s any way I can pay you back…”

He leaned in a bit. “A word of recommendation to Princess Celestia?”

“Done.” She said with a wink.

He greeted each pony with a personalized send off. Zecora was bid farewell in her native tongue; Fluttershy was given a ticket to the Dragon Valley nature sanctuary; Rainbow Dash was given a subdued respectful nod that she returned with a smirk; Applejack was awarded with a hearty hoofshake and as they smiled and posed for the hundreds of camera flashes that followed. Some good publicity for the Apple Clan.

Finally, Rarity was bid farewell with a deep respectful bow and a card. “I’ll call you later, there’s another business proposition I’d like to discuss. A valuable one.”

“Thank you Zeit.” Rarity said with a deep courtesy. “You’ve been very good to me.”

He began to say something before barely containing a yelp as a small-clawed foot dug into his. Spike looked up at him, hands raised to his face in faux-mortification. “Geez! Aw, I’m sorry Zit-er…Zeit. That was a complete derp moment on my part, sorry.”

Zeit bit his lip and forced a smile as the little clawed foot ground in a bit before lifting. “Ah yes! The young gentledragon…erhg…I have a special present for you…” he produced a large incandescent orb. “Black opal, very tasty I hear. From my homeland…no latrines.”

Spike blinked and reached out for the sparkling gem before looking Zeit in the eye. “I’m sorry about that. For real this time.”

Zeit nodded and patted him on the head before making his way up the ramp, turning around to wave once more to the ponies and to the crowd before disappearing into his ship. Eight of his servants then began exiting the ship in single file, each of them carrying the ponies’ belongings.

They approached the group and the lead servant said. “Please follow us to your rooms madams.”

Twilight nodded before she spun around, having seen a familiar face out the corner of her eye, a face amongst the crowd, a grinning, winking face.

“Twilight Sparkle?” Zecora said with her eyebrow raised.

Twilight scanned the crowd; the face was nowhere to be seen. “I thought…it’s nothing.”

The Doctor watched as the airship anchored itself to the mooring mast, short upwards bursts from its swiveling engines pushing it down. The bow-most section of the bottom of the undercarriage opened and lowered itself down to the street with a sharp metallic clang, and down the ramp strolled a bipedal figure. He seemed familiar but The Doctor couldn’t quite put his hoof on it.

“Wow…” breathed Fire Dazzler behind him. “…That’s Zeitgeist Stardust! I can’t believe it! He never comes here, he’s got his own private estate further down the lake.”

“That’s Zeitgeist Stardust?” The Doctor exclaimed. “The fellow Rarity was with when we…sometimes I’m so thick! She could not stop banging on about this big name dog person, and all this time he was just the ponce I met all those weeks ago! Bloody nice ship though…”

Fire Dazzler scoffed at The Doctor’s dismissive attitude before seven rather cute mares made their way down the ramp, followed by what appeared to be a small lizard. “Who’re they?”

“Friends of mine.” The Doctor said with a smile. “Good friends.”

He turned to The Doctor, eyes wide. “They’re friends of yours? And they know Zeitgeist Stardust?”

“Evidently.” The Doctor muttered.

“That’s so cool! Wow! Do you think you could introduce me to them?” He said before turning back and murmuring. “…That unicorn’s pretty cute…”

“Who? Rarity? I’ll have to take your word on that one, although she’s posed as a goddess on one occasion, The Great White Mare they called her.”

“What? No…” Fire Dazzler shook his head dreamily. “…The other unicorn, the purple one!”

The Doctor blinked in genuine surprise. “Twilight Sparkle?!”

“Twilight Sparkle…” he said dreamily.

The Doctor rolled his eyes and sighed. “Someone likes the librarian look apparently…” He said before turning back to the spectacle and hissing through his teeth. “Ooh!! Ha-HAH! Good one, Spike!”

The Doctor began to make his way towards them before stopping, smile disappearing from his face. ‘Stop right there! Why do you think they came here? This is a vacation spot! They came here to relax! You know full well that there’s something strange about this place and yet you go marching off to drop an adventure right in their laps without asking? That’s why you always wind up alone…let them live for a bit, you can handle this one. ’

“Well? Doctor? Aren’t you going to introduce me?” Fire Dazzler said hopefully.

He turned to him and shook his head. “Nope! I leave that daunting task to you, Mr. Dazzler! As for me, I’ve got a mine to inspect! And an airship!” With that The Doctor sped off, stopping to eye his friends as they left, a warm smile on his face. ‘Have some fun, you lot!’

Fire Dazzler watched as the strange stallion disappeared into the crowd. “Mad as a spring hare that one…”

“I prefer ‘crazy like a fox’ myself!” The Doctor said, somehow behind him now. “Oh by the way…” he said, getting very close and looking Fire Dazzler square in the eye, a rather cold unfriendly smile on his face. “If you are indeed going to try and pursue a relationship with my good dear friend Twilight, do take her feelings into consideration, she’s a little…awkward socially. If you in some way…distress her, I will make you very, very sorry…forever. Compris?”

Fire Dazzler blinked, fully believing that this stallion could easily unleash some kind of eternal arcane torment if he so wished. “Y-yeah…I’ll be the perfect gentlecolt.”

“Brilliant!” The Doctor said, a warm grin replacing that cold hard smile. “See you soon! Allons-y!”

Zeitgeist Stardust sat down in his chair, the large window of the observation room filling his view. The large crowd was being kept from harassing his guests by his security forces; they were having a particularly hard time keeping the valley natives from absconding with young Spike. He sighed and rubbed his foot, that little dragon had three things that had made that experience particularly unpleasant, very hard claws, an amazing power-to-weight ratio, and a sizable crush on a potential business partner that he was trying to charm. Luckily his life as a member of an imperial court had made him particularly good at saving face amidst public displays of pettiness. An understanding grin and a trinket later and his reputation as a dragon sympathizer would be cemented in the minds of the resort going ponies as well as the dracophiliac Narragansetts natives. Still hurt though.

A knock came to his door; he rubbed his right temple with his index and middle fingers. “…Enter.”

The door opened and in stepped Litigia Statute, her normally stern expression softened into a look of worry. “Mr. Stardust, mine security just contacted us. They say they’re reasonably certain where the next attack is going to happen…at a cost. They plan on drawing them out with the new super drills.”

“Bait.” Zeitgeist said, rubbing his tired eyes with his thumb and index finger before pinching the bridge of his nose. “They’re going to use the new XMC-703’s as bait?”

“Yes sir. Three of them.” She said with a sardonic smirk. “Security sergeant Ansatz feels that putting our biggest most effective vehicles out on display will encourage a sabotage raid.”

“Biggest and most effective, not to mention our most expensive! I could have built a whole fleet of class-500 lifter airship transports for one 703!” Zeitgeist sighed and looked out the observation window at the crowd of tourists and resort employees. “Can he guarantee results?”

“He says his forces may be enough to repel or defeat a small raiding party, but he’ll need a few of your grenadiers to combat a larger force.”

“Oh hell, why not! I brought two-hundred of the foaming bastards for a reason!” Zeitgeist said heatedly. “I’ve got half a mind to bring a whole diamond-damned division of them! Dig down to those animals’ hive and wipe them out, burn them out of my fur forever!!”

Litigia walked forward quickly, worry clear on her face. “Zeit…please don’t talk like that.”

He hung his head before smiling weakly. “Sorry Lit…this whole thing has gotten out of hand. All I need is one of them to talk to. Find out if they see reason, if they can be bought. But judging by that one from before…I’m beginning to think that even if we do open a dialogue they won’t rest until that mine, my mine, is closed down…I can’t let that happen.”

“But at the cost of lives, Zeit?” Litigia said quietly.

He growled lowly, baring his teeth. “While I draw breath I swear that the mines of Dragon Mountain shall never close. They will overcome this trial, be it through diplomacy or the emitters of a lightning gun.” He brought his fist down against his armrest, activating the com. “Captain Aufwuchs, are all the crew onboard?”

“Yes sir.” A gruff voice sounded through the com. “Your orders?”

“Tell my grenadiers to arm themselves and prepare for combat. I want us taking positions within the hour, understood?”

“Yessir!”

The Brünhild detached from the mooring mast and made her way towards the mine ten kilometers away. The blue glow of her engines soon a collection of dots in the night sky to the ponies in the crowd.

The Grundel opened his eyes as he rose from beneath the ground, even in the supposed darkness of night the light of the half moon at its zenith still made the backs of his eyes itch. He still enjoyed looking at the moon though; the work of The Junior Daughter was something his kind had always appreciated, even if her direct subjects did not. His was an old race, leftovers from an ancient era when gods did battle over the surface of the planet, the valley lake one of the few remaining scars from a particularly vicious fight of a particularly vicious era. It had been the final battle of that epoch, where the great Equine Gods Radian and Terra fought alongside their allies to maintain stability of the world against those who would cast it into darkness. It was there that one of the most powerful beings to have ever existed, the Dragon God Calcipher, gave his life. From that sacrifice Dragon Valley was born, the evil sealed, and the era of war and darkness forgotten for the greater good. It was his people’s duty to prevent His return; He who had fought the Equine Gods to a standstill; he who had corrupted entire species beyond redemption with his dread magics; he who was sealed away inside the great black mountain. Him. The Beast. The Corruptor. The Demon God Tirac.

He approached one of the great machines; a massive construct of metal and magic, its sole purpose was the erosion of His prison. These creatures, these ‘diamond dogs’, had mined the mountain for centuries, harmlessly scraping at the surface, never able to pierce the great diamond barrier within the mountain. It had been the first line of defense, a wall of diamond 1-meter thick, and for a while there was nothing the miners could do other than curse the shield and scrape at it impotently. But then he came, the new owner, the Duke. Young and industrious, this noble had seen the wall as a challenge and vowed to vanquish it. When told of renewed efforts to pierce the barrier the Grundel elders simply clicked their tongues and dismissed it as youthful folly, this new dog would bear his teeth and growl, but his bite would never come. Such was their complacency. Such was their ignorance. What they had not considered was the brilliance of this new Duke; that he would not only bite, but also that his bite would shatter their peace as deftly as it would shatter the great barrier.

The technology wielded by the new miners allowed them to penetrate the first three barriers within a decade, causing much uproar amongst the Grundel community. It was decided then that action would be taken but the Grundels were a gentle and kindly people by nature, and could not bring themselves to perform more than minor mischief. Acts of sabotage against the mining machines were the most common, as it slowed their advance but no one would be hurt. However, it had become clear amongst younger Grundels that slowing their advance was doing just that, slowing them. To prevent His release the mining had to stop dead. This younger generation had grown up with the constant threat of His return poisoning the atmosphere; they were of a different sort than their parents. As the miners prepared to penetrate the fourth barrier all ten mineshafts collapsed, crushing and killing over one hundred diamond dogs. The Grundel council condemned the act and lamented the dead miners, but could not argue with the results, the mining had completely ceased its relentless pace for the first time in fifteen years.

For the next six months the Grundel forces sabotaged machine after machine, siphoned poisonous gasses into smaller mineshafts, and collapsed nearly all the major mineshafts save one. It was at this point of victory that the Duke once again revealed his brilliance, for this last mineshaft was not only magically reinforced, also but booby trapped. All attempts to collapse the mine were met with failure and death; the energy field that sustained the mine did so by pushing out with tremendous force, collapsing any undermining tunnel in on the saboteur. By the end of the day seven Grundels had been crushed into jelly by the Duke’s fearsome technology, and soon all of the collapsed mineshafts had been reopened, protected by this new system. Mining had begun anew and began to make up for lost time at a furious pace. Now things had escalated, the Grundels were out in full force; a large brawny Worker Grundel had murdered two scout miners at the behest of his Thinker. They had been establishing the groundwork for a new major shaft and the Thinker saw no other alternative. Despite the Worker having been severely traumatized by his actions the tactic caught on, actual attacks were being carried out against diamond dog miners, Worker Grundels being more than able to kill with their bare hands. In response the diamond dogs fought back, being relatively physically potent themselves they could effectively combat small attacks. This had turned into a war.

The Grundel sighed in the moonlight, why didn’t the Grundel elders explain the situation to the diamond dogs? Surely they’d see reason. But his Thinker had told him that diamond dogs must hunt for gems, it was part what they were, and so long as the great mountain existed they would mine it. So they would fight them, they would break their machines and their mines and their bodies. They would continue until no diamond dog set foot in Dragon Valley ever again.

He looked over at several dozen of his fellow workers and signaled silently to them. ‘I will break. You will trap.’

‘I trap.’ He signaled back before adding. ‘Where Crut? He was scout. Why not back?’

The Grundel was about to shrug before a sound unlike anything he’d ever heard split the air; it was a great hissing crack, something like a thunder clap and a fire-hose. An impossibly bright blue line touched the Worker Grundel to his left, and his arms and legs stiffened like pistons as his skeleton briefly became visible. The Worker Grundel collapsed in a heap as smoke and steam roiled off his charred body. Suddenly the cries of diamond dogs were all around him, bright floodlights blinded him as lances of blue blasted through the air. The zapping sounds followed by the loud thuds of his fellow Grundels as they were slain back-dropped the victorious howls of the diamond dogs. Stars exploded behind his blinded eyes as something solid and heavy smashed into his cheek. He fell to the ground and looked up in a daze. Standing above him blocking out the bright light and the moon was a tall thin white diamond dog flanked by two burly guards. The Duke.

“Hello.” He said. “I think we need to have a little talk.”

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