• Published 6th Nov 2020
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Son of the Howlite Howler - JNKing

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Chapter 1: So Close and Yet So Far

It was so close to being over. So painfully close that Twilight almost suspected something was supposed to go wrong. Nightmare Moon had been restored to Princess Luna. Discord was reformed. Chrysalis and Sombra were dead (or about to be), Tirek was in prison, Starlight Glimmer had atoned, and best of all, Twilight had finally made peace with Shiva; the Alpha of the Diamond Dogs of Outer Haven. All she had to do was figure out what was wrong with Shiva’s son Kodo, currently rebuilding Filthy Rich’s Barnyard Bargains, and things could finally go back to normal.

Yet, as Twilight and even Shiva herself watched the young diamond dog rebuilding Barnyard Bargains, nothing gave the impression that he was possessed by anything evil.

The two looked up as Rainbow Dash settled next to them.

“Anything?” Twilight asked.

Rainbow Dash shrugged. “He seems fine,” she replied, before giving Shiva a look. “Uses some kinda dark magic aura, but…”

“He’s always had that,” Shiva replied, watching her son. “But according to Skippy, he kept me knocked out for an entire week in the erased timeline.”

Twilight tilted her head. “Not the, uh, timeline where you took over Equestria, right?” she asked.

“No,” Shiva said. “The timeline you erased by showing up to the trial on time.”

Twilight blinked. “W-Wait, what?” she asked.

Shiva rubbed at her head, trying to regain the memories. “I don’t suppose you recollect what happened in the alternate timelines, do you?” Shiva asked.

Rainbow Dash rubbed at her own head. “Weren’t Kodo and I, like… friends?” she asked.

Pinkie Pie jumped. “I was a member of the revolution in the changeling timeline,” she recalled. She donned a beret. “Viva de revolution!”

The group spared her a glance before returning their attention to Shiva.

“Well, there was a timeline where you were still tracking Starlight,” Shiva explained. “And in that timeline, Spoiled Rich drove Kodo to attack her, and he fled into the Frozen North. I went searching for him, and he ended up knocking me out for several weeks.” She gave a quick nod to Twilight. “T-Thanks to you, it never happened. But it still makes me wonder…”

“Right,” Twilight said. “What if whoever’s in him gets him to try something else.” She hummed, turning back inside, where Spike, Pinkie, Applejack, Rarity and Fluttershy awaited. “Well, let’s start with the basics; who could be in his head?” With a flash of magic, she started laying out photos of the villains they had faced. “Nightmare Moon…”

“Uh-uh,” Rainbow Dash said. “Shiva’s never met her.”

“I met her counterpart,” Shiva grumbled.

“Luna was brash, but Nightmare Moon would’ve been something else,” Twilight said, a tad defensively.

“You don’t have to defend her,” Shiva replied. “I was in the Nightmare Moon timeline.” Her eyes narrowed. “I’m pretty sure she killed me.”

Twilight’s ears flattened, and her fur paled.

“Oh… kay, so probably not her.” She poofed the photo with a flash of light, before settling another one. “Discord?”

“No,” Fluttershy said. “Shiva drained his power.”

“And I’m still not giving it back,” Shiva said before Fluttershy could even glance at her.

“Alright, so Discord’s probably not a candidate.” She poofed his picture and summoned another. “Queen Chrysalis?”

Shiva hummed. “I… did kill her, but we did let the changelings go too.”

“Let’s keep her changelings in mind,” Applejack offered, taking the photo and setting it down before them. Twilight summoned another photo.

“King Sombra,” she offered. Shiva hummed, rubbing subconsciously at where his magic had hit her many years ago. Though the scar was long faded, the name still sent a shudder through her arm.

“Well, obviously, the Crystal Heart took him down,” Rarity said, failing to catch Shiva’s hesitation. However, Twilight noticed Shiva’s flattened ears.

“Shiva?” she asked. “You don’t… think he’s still out there, do you?”

Shiva clutched at her arm. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “I was sort of putting everything on the Crystal Heart, same as you.” She set the photo down. “Let’s keep him in mind, just in case.”

“Well, there’s not that many others to keep in mind,” Twilight admitted, summoning two last pictures. “Lord Tirek is back in Tartarus; no way he could cause trouble while he’s in there. And Starlight Glimmer…”

Everyone paused, sharing a mutual look at the pink unicorn hesitating by the door. She wilted like a scared animal.

“You’re not doing anything to my son, are you?” Shiva asked suspiciously.

Before Starlight could figure out whether to plead for mercy or scoff in indignation, Twilight spoke for her.

“No,” she said, standing between them. “You two didn’t meet until now. And her gripe was with us, not you.” She put a hoof to her chin. “The multiple timelines may have been a bit… traumatizing…”

Shiva flinched, glancing down at where her alternate counterpart had stabbed Twilight, but Twilight covered it with a grimace.

“…but that was more collateral than intentional malice,” Twilight dismissed. “Which means that our two main suspects are Chrysalis – or at the very least her hive – or Sombra, somehow revitalized despite the Crystal Heart.”

Applejack pawed at her hat. “Ya don’t reckon it might be something else, do ye?” she asked. “Equestria seems to draw more ‘n a few troublemakers. And this apparently only happened after Kodo ran off.”

Twilight grimaced. “Maybe,” she admitted, her eyes turning to the photo of Sombra. “Except…” she turned to Shiva. “Shiva, do you remember when Kodo was first born?”

Shiva’s ears wagged. “It’s hard to forget,” she pointed out wryly, eliciting a few nervous chuckles from the mares. Spike just glanced around in confusion.

“Well,” Twilight went on. “I remember noticing an odd aura coming from him. Now, I-I know you mentioned later that it was just the Pack Link passed down, but… then Celine visited.”

Shiva glanced at Twilight as she brought up two diagrams of two different wolves.

“Did you… scan her or something?” Shiva asked.

“Technically, I scan every pony,” Twilight replied. “I’m a princess; I gotta make sure that everyone's safe.”

Shiva moved to protest… before realizing that was actually not a bad idea. Instead of protesting, she went for a simple, “What’d you find?”

Twilight poured more magic into her diagrams. One lit up in gold lightning bolts, spinning around the wolf diagram like electrons around an atom.

“This is Celine’s aura,” she explained. “It’s not as structured as a unicorn’s aura, but that’s probably due to the unicorn magic being wedged in with the human, earth canine and diamond dog components. But Kodo…”

She lit up the second wolf diagram. It additionally had the electron like lightning spinning around it. But in the very center of his core…

“What… is that?” Applejack asked.

“I daresay it looks like cancer,” Rarity breathed.

“Or a black hole,” Pinkie offered.

Shiva only stared silently up at the pulsating, black… thing nestled in what had to be her son.

“Twilight,” Shiva breathed. “What… is that?”

Twilight pointed at Sombra’s photo. “It’s unicorn magic, but heavily corrupted.” She lowered her head with a sigh. “I’m sorry, Shiva, but our best bet right now is that Sombra somehow got into your son before the Crystal Heart went off.”

“That’s insane,” Rarity declared. “Was Shiva even pregnant with Kodo at the time?”

But then she noticed Shiva rubbing at her arm again.

“I… did take a hit from him,” Shiva admitted. “Way before we even knew what the Crystal Heart was.” She held her head in her hands. “If his magic corrupted him… and I didn’t even…”

Twilight hushed her, softly patting her claws.

“You couldn’t have known,” she said. “The Crystal Heart wouldn’t have known either. Any kind of baby is supposed to be born purely innocent. He wouldn’t have even registered as a threat to the artifact. Otherwise…”

Shiva shut her ears before Twilight could say, but Twilight didn’t bother trying. The others solemnly processed this, before Pinkie let out a breath.

“Well, that’s a relief,” she declared.

Shiva stared up at her. “What?!” she snarled.

Pinkie pointed at Sombra. “It means Sombra is what we have to worry about,” she declared. “We just gather up the Elements, wait for Kodo to come in. And then hit him with a good ole fashioned Friendship Laser. That should wash Sombra right outta him.”

Shiva stood. “Will this Friendship Laser hurt him?” she demanded.

Instantly, Twilight was up. “He’ll be just fine,” she assured Shiva. “We used the Elements on Princess Luna to free her from Nightmare Moon.”

“But Luna’s an alicorn,” Shiva insisted. “Kodo’s a diamond dog, and he’s only a child…”

“Exactly,” Applejack assured her. “The Element’s ain’t about to hurt a little colt like him.” She strode up to Shiva and made the diamond dog look her in the eyes. “Trust me like you trusted me when we met; as the Element of Honesty, what I’m sayin’ to you is the honest truth: let us use the Elements on Kodo, and he’ll be right as rain.”

Shiva searched Applejack’s face, maybe even looking for some sign of the Element in her. But whatever she saw, it lacked any dishonesty. She lowered her head with a sigh.

“Okay,” she said, before turning to Twilight. “I’ve never trusted you guys as much as I’m trusting you now.” Her ears flattened. “Please, don’t let it go to waste.”

“We won’t,” she assured her. “Just one quick blast, and this will all be over.”

#

Glad that’s over,” Kodo commented, stretching as he left the completed Barnyard Bargains behind. “And here I thought that was gonna last forever.”

I still don’t know what your Mother was thinking,” Sombra commented. “That kind of work should be reserved for the laborers; the commoners!”

Kodo scoffed. “By everything sacred, you sound like those snobby ponies from Canterlot,” he grumbled. “Just because you were raised in a castle doesn’t make you better than other ponies. Just like me being born to Mother doesn’t make me any better than the other diamond dogs.”

But it does,” Sombra insisted. “You have more power than any of them. They should be bowing to you. Scraping for your favor.”

Kodo shivered. The thought… admittedly did sound pleasant. But he pushed it from his mind.

Mother says that we are all pack,” he recited. “And an Alpha without their pack is nothing.”

Sombra sighed. It was clear he wasn’t going to get anywhere in this argument.

Just make sure that you don’t set yourself up for danger,” Sombra replied. “A king without his people may be nothing. But a people without their king is lost.”

Kodo nodded. “On that, we can agree.”

As they rounded the last corner before the castle, Kodo smiled as he saw Shiva waiting outside for him. Seeing her warm smile. Her pristine white fur. The look of love in her chocolate brown eyes.

Sombra shivered as he felt Kodo’s love and admiration for his mother swell. There was truly no way he was going to be able to get Kodo to do what he wanted.

Not while Shiva was around.

But Sombra didn’t let his train of thought on that go too far. At least not without Kodo listening. But Kodo seemed oblivious to the voice in his head for now. He bounded forward and jumped into his mother’s arms.

Leaving Sombra free to consider possible ways to get Shiva out of his way.

Death was certainly an easy option. Poison in her food. A knife in the back. It had been attempted plenty of times in Sombra’s court. But it would also devastate Kodo. To the point of being unable to do anything? Well... that was a gamble Sombra wasn’t sure he could take.

He then thought of the mirror. How Shiva had seemed so… tempted by it. So, curious to see what lay on the other side.

He hummed in intrigue, before noticing something about Shiva; her gaze was haggard. Almost like she was hiding something important.

“Kodo,” she said into her son’s ear. “You know I love you more than life itself, yes?”

“Of course,” Kodo said, so blissfully ignorant of Shiva’s tone and hesitation.

“I will do anything to keep you safe,” she insisted.

“And I’d do the same for you,” he said.

Oh, the benefits of youth. Sombra could tell that, despite his penchant for anger, Kodo truly loved his mother. Whatever she was planning, Kodo was not going to see it coming.

“So, I hope you’ll understand,” Shiva said, pulling him into the castle.

“Understand what?”

His tone was still so curious. He was so unaware of the danger he was in.

Kodo,” Sombra barked in his head. “It’s a trap!”

Confusion briefly flashed through his mind. Before he saw six glowing mares standing before him.

“KODO!” Sombra screamed.

He knew what they were there for. He could already see the beams blasting towards them. Ready to wash him free of his host and turn him into the ashes that should have been left when the Crystal Heart was done with him. He turned to run, but the doors slammed shut, Spike and Starlight pushing them closed.

But in Kodo’s shock, he grabbed Shiva’s claw before she could get out of the way. And a pack link formed.

Sombra could sense Shiva’s hesitation. He could sense her fear. A voice inside her was already saying; protect him. Protect your son.

But… another voice whispered. This will help him.

Sombra added his voice to the one of her maternal instinct.

HELP HIM!” He boomed.

Shocked by the force of the voice, Shiva jumped to Kodo's defense, a shield spiraling around them. The beam crashed into her shield. But it wouldn’t hold for long.

“Kodo,” Sombra insisted, reaching out to the boy’s magic as well as his own. “Trust me.”

In his fear, Kodo could only nod and allow access. And as he clung tightly to his mother, Sombra controlled his other claw, and lashed out.

Six pack link tendrils flew from underneath the beam, wrapping like plunder vines around the Mane Six. Gasps of pain sounded from them, and their magic sputtered out as Sombra pulled the magic from them.

“Guys?” Spike stammered. “Guys!”

“Spike, look!” Starlight tried to point out.

But Sombra was fast, and the strength Kodo was gaining from the magic fueled him. Sending two surges through the links, he lashed Starlight to Twilight, and Spike to Rarity. With a final pull, Sombra yanked their energy from them. And the ponies and dragon collapsed in an unconscious heap.

As Sombra stood tall in his host’s body, Shiva slipped from his side, collapsing as well upon the marble floor.

The doors were shut. No one would know what had happened. No one but Sombra.

But only if he acted fast. This was his chance. But what to do.

He could try and kill the Mane Six.

No…

No, he could feel Kodo fighting him on that. The boy was still in there. And with him, those blasted morals. He wasn’t even sure he’d be able to take out Shiva without…

Wait…a new idea formed in his mind. One he tried to keep concealed from Kodo.

But the boy fought. What are you hiding? He tried to ask.

Acting fast, Sombra seized Shiva by the head. And he reactivated the pack link. Her memories flashed before his eyes. Her imprisonment. Her grudges. Her forgiveness. Letting them flow through him like a current in a river, he forced those memories into Kodo, drowning him in every experience his mother had gone through.

Trying to keep priority on her time in the cage, Sombra dragged Shiva away from the lobby. A quick search through the memories told him exactly where to go. And before long, he stood in front of the mirror to the human world.

He focused down on Shiva. Her face was so serene and calm, trapped in the throes of unconsiousness, despite what he was doing. Channeling his newfound strength, he delved deeper into her memories. Not just seeking to share them, he sought to uproot them.

Bit by bit, he emptied her mind of her experiences in Equestria. Her family. Her pack. Her Empire. All of it was sucked away into Kodo’s mind, drowning his host's original soul and keeping him from seeing what Sombra was doing.

Among those memories, he left the ones of her original life. A simple dog, owned by a loving master.

It’s the least I can do, he found himself thinking. You protected me from the Crystal Heart. You were a good mother to my host. You deserve far better than to be killed among the ponies you used to hate.

Lifting her body, Sombra turned to the mirror.

Once, you wanted this life back,”Sombra noted. “Go ahead and have it.”

And with a small laugh, he tossed her body forward, watching it sink into the mirror.

#

Twilight’s eyes slowly fluttered open. Groaning, she pulled herself to her hooves.

“What… happened?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“That was weird,” Pinkie asked. “The Element Beam is pretty exhausting. But I don’t remember it being that exhausting.”

“Every pony okay?” Applejack asked.

As the others affirmed their status, Twilight looked to Spike, Starlight, Shiva and Kodo.

“Guys,” she muttered. “What…?”

But then she noticed one of them was missing. And the other was looking around, panic beginning to set in.

“W-Where is she?” Kodo stammered.

“Kodo?” Twilight squeaked. Hesitantly, she flared up her magic, hoping against hope that the spell had somehow worked. That his soul was clear of Sombra’s wrath. That somehow, the end she had longed for could still be within her grasp.

But his next words proved she had been a foal to think victory was so close at hand. That peace between nations was now probably farther away from her than it had ever been before.

“Sparkle,” Kodo seethed. “WHERE IS MY MOTHER?!”

Author's Note:

And so, the fourth arc begins.

Thank you as always for reading and commenting.