• Published 24th Jan 2013
  • 1,179 Views, 38 Comments

Dog and Pony Show: Aftermath - KaraC

Having been forced to deplete their territory of gems by Rarity, Rover, Fido and Spot must find a new way to offer Tribute to the Alphas of all Dogs.

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1 - Acts of Desperation

Sour-faced, the three canines watched the mares and male dragon leave the caves with more gems than most Diamond Dogs could dig up in two or three years.

“Many many gems …” Fido whined. Rover’s teeth flashed as he snapped at his subordinate.

“Stop speaking in the pony tongue!” He growled in their native language. Fido cringed despite his larger size. “You don’t speak it well enough to show the intelligence I know you to have. Besides, we have bigger problems.”

Three pairs of ears drooped in unison. “The Tribute. Spot and Fido groaned.

“Exactly.” The leader nodded as his mind raced. As he thought he unconsciously stroked his throat, as though making sure it was still there. Fido and Spot looked to him expectantly. “Without it, we’re dead. If the other packs find out, we’re dead. If we run, we’ll be killed on sight. Any way we look at it, we’re dead or we lose our territory.”

“We should have just eaten her.” Spot grumbled. “Breaking the treaty with that stupid White Alpha of the ponies would have been worth dying with a stomach full of red meat.”

Rover and Fido rolled their eyes at the remark. “You eat more than the two of us combined,” Fido snarked. “by the First Alphas I swear you have hollow legs. Where do you put it all?” As the large dog spoke, Rover’s eyes widened and his ears perked up as though he’d just had an epiphany.

“The First Alphas … Spot, Fido, that’s it! That’s how we keep our throats from the jaws of the Big Bitch!” He exclaimed as he withdrew a key and opened one of the barred doors. He was followed obediently by the two males of his small pack into the room.

Tools of all sorts filled the room. Spare harnesses hung on the left wall with spare carts stacked neatly beneath them. The middle wall held all sorts of items related to refining the metal from the veins they came across over a primitive forge. On the left wall was an assortment of woodworking tools any carpenter would drool over. Spot and Fido looked confused as Rover tossed each of them a hammer, saw and hand-drills.

They looked at each other uncertainly before Fido managed to work up enough courage to actually question Rover’s actions. “Boss? How are these supposed to keep us out of the Big Bitch’s gullet?” Rover whirled around with an almost mad glee in his eyes.

“You said it yourself Fido! The First Alphas! When the First Bitch was Heavy with pups and First Dog was injured they couldn’t leave the First Den, so we brought them food! That was the beginning of the Tribute!”

“But the Big Bitch isn’t Heavy.” Spot told him even as realization began to dawn on Fido’s face.

“It doesn’t matter. A Tribute is still a Tribute. Be it gems or flesh. But Boss, the White Alpha …” Fido trailed off with wide eyes pleading for reassurance.

“Tch. Her own fault for letting the ponies do what they do. She knows we’re down here. Besides, we do this from below, and then fill in the holes behind us and the ponies will never know.” He walked out of the storeroom bereft of any tools and locked the door. “We impress them enough, we’ll get a new territory filled to the brim with gems and metals.” The sour look returned to his features as he looked at the multitudes of tunnels, old and new. “Unlike this one, no thanks to that whining white mule.”

“Yeah, I get it now!” Spot perked up as his tail began to wag. “We give a good enough Tribute, they might even allow us a bitch for our new territory! We’d finally have a proper pack! Maybe even a bitch for us in the future, right Fido?” He winked and elbowed Fido’s hip. But Fido wasn’t paying attention to the brown dog, he was watching Rover with eyebrows furrowed in worry as the lead diamond dog removed his vest and began fingering the tag dangling from his collar. His eyes widened in shock as Rover moved both forepaws up behind his head and slowly began to unbuckle his collar. Even Spot finally shut up.

“This Collar. This citrine Tag,” Rover began slowly. “with them, I am your leader; the Alpha of our small pack. Without, I am the lowest of the low. A dog with no name, no pack, no territory. Unidentifiable. A grunt. A rogue.” His large green eyes were fixated on the collar and tag as he rubbed the citrine with his thumb. “What I do, I do for our future.” He carefully folded the vest and laid his mark of leadership on it. “These are my final orders, to be carried out until … if I return. You two are to get as many as you can in the five days we have until Tribute, the fresher the better, and go on to the First Den. If I survive, I’ll meet you there. If I don’t …” He paused and looked at Fido. “If I don’t return by the time it’s our turn; Fido, I appoint you the new leader.” Solemnly, Rover presented the vest and collar combo to Fido. The large blue dog gulped and silently accepted the monumental burden he had just been passed.

“B … Rover. What are you planning?” Fido asked, using the dog’s given name, not his previous rank, stopping him mid-jog to one of the eastern tunnels.

“I’m going for the rarest of delicacies to ever cross an Alpha’s lips,” He replied before twisting his head so as to look over his shoulder and shoot the two a roguish grin.

“A dragon egg.” Then he was gone.

Fido’s strong arms powered through the solid dirt as though it were merely air; Spot, being smaller than his blue pack member, was struggling to keep up. For every stride Fido took, Spot was forced to take three. Even with his tongue lolling from his mouth he managed to keep up.

“Do you really think this is gonna work? There hasn’t been a flesh Tribute since … y’know.” Spot panted. “The White Alpha’s not gonna like this.”

“Nothing in the Treaty says we can’t scavenge, Rover was right about that.” Fido replied as he continued to dig. “Besides, this might just solve the problem the Big Bitch has been having. She lost another one just two months ago you know.”

Spot winced at that. “Yeah, I heard about that too. Wouldn’t let anydog near her for weeks; not even her Big Dog. I hope you’re right, she’s not getting any younger.”

“Well it’s just speculation;” Fido replied as he stopped digging and turned to face the small brown dog. “you know the problems didn’t start until after we were forbidden from hunting ponies. It got worse a thousand years ago though.”

“So what you’re saying … is that things will get better now?” Hope washed across the entirety of his small body. Fido’s ears drooped as he turned away to hide his visible unease.

“Maybe.” Was all he said as he continued digging, though not as quickly as before. The trip continued in silence for another few kilometres until he abruptly stopped and began twisting his large ears. “The First Alphas are smiling on us.” Fido told Spot as he pressed his ear to the dirt ceiling above.

“The funeral is still going. Spot, wait here and grab the pony as soon as the hole is filled. I’m going to look for new graves.” With that Fido began tunneling to the newer section of the graveyard.

A minute ticked by, then another. By the end of the third minute, Spot was pacing.

“So bored!” He declared as he shot a glare up at the ceiling of dirt. “‘Wait here’ he says. He’s not the one who’s gotta listen to stupid ponies telling stupid stories. He lived, he died, so what?” Spot grumbled as he plopped ungracefully onto his rump; after crossing his arms he began to pout. “S’not like he did anything special.”

His ear twitched. “S’not like he’s going anywhere either.” The epiphany came with an obvious realization. “That’s it, I’m outta here!” He dove into the nearest wall and embarked on his self-imposed quest for something better to do. To amuse himself while he burrowed, he started to sing one of the teaching songs he’d been taught as a pup.

“Before dragons could flame,
Before manticores had wings and sting.
Before the star-bears came,
Our minds were waking!”

“We discovered how to work together,
To defend and attack.
To live through the worst weather,
We became the Pack!”

“To ponies and deer,
To the big and small.
We were the ones to fear,
For we hunted them all!”

“The world began to change,
Nothing but ice and snow would fall.
The bodies of boys would become quite strange,
But the girls hardly changed at all!”

He stopped singing and popped his head above ground. Seeing that all but a single pony had left and that the single pony was filling the grave, he grinned. Going back underground, he traced his steps back to where he’d been left by Fido.

About time! Wish we’d been able to mine enough gems to afford bitch guards instead of stupid, neutered grunts! If we could’ve, then we wouldn’t be stuck scavenging. Those stupid ponies and their dragon would have fetched a lifetime’s worth of Tribute from the White Alpha. They were the invaders after all.” Spot muttered darkly as he ground his teeth and grabbed a rock in each hand to keep from punching the wall. Sand leaked from his clenched forepaws.

The grit teeth and irritated eyes faded as the grin spreading across his face went from ear to ear as he picked up the hand drill. “Hee hee! The pony is almost done!” His hands twitched eagerly. “Not yet.” He reminded himself. “Just a little longer!”

“We are Diamond Dogs, there is no doubt!
Despite our names we are no one’s pet!
Soon the White Alpha will hear us shout,
‘Our oppression you WILL regret!’”

As Spot snarled the last line, the pony filling the hole walked away. He began to carefully cut a hole in the wood coffin.

Tunneling at a respectable pace through the nutrient rich soil, Fido didn’t stop until the root system of the forest treeline begin to seriously impede his progress. From there he turned so he was digging parallel to the trees. However he didn’t even get to full speed before stumbling into the spiked bottom of a crude pit trap. Pressing his nose to one of the jagged spikes and closing his eyes, he began to sniff the lingering scent of whoever had made the trap. Fido continued to sniff for several minutes, going from one spike to another until he lifted his lips and growled.

“Stupid little …!” He snarled before reaching up with a massive forepaw, grabbing the lip of the hole and hauling himself up to the surface. Having landed in a crouch, he cast his irritated gaze around before shaking the remains of the trap camouflage from his fur. As leaves and sticks briefly flew through the air and landed everywhere; one stick, thicker and longer than the rest, somersaulted end over end into a thick bush.

“Ow!” Came the high-pitched yelp as a head popped up from the undergrowth, followed quickly by another. “What was that for?!” The light gray pup whined as he rubbed his head, exposing the green-studded collar around his neck.

“You ruined our pony trap Diamond Dog! I order you to fix it!” The sand coloured pup with a black muzzle barked at him imperiously. His collar was studded with green as well, marking the two of them as being from the same pack. Fido rolled his eyes.

“I don’t listen to Emerald Dog pups, especially not stupid ones.” Fido shifted his weight to his hind legs and stood tall, looming over the two young males. “Fill this in and go home before you get your entire pack killed.”

The gray pup flinched and moved for the trap, only to be stopped by the other one grabbing his tail. “What do you think you’re doing Bud?! He’s only a Diamond! We’re Emeralds! We outrank him!”

“But Rex … I don’t want mom, dad, aunt Daisy, uncle Marley and uncle Patch to die.” Bud whimpered.

“Listen to me you stupid little pony-pet, we are the pups of the Emerald Alpha, we don’t submit to a lowly Diamond Dog! No matter how big he is! Even together, his dumb pack wouldn’t even get a scratch on aunt Daisy before she tore their throats out!”

Looking bored of the argument between the brothers, Fido interrupted. “Neither your ‘aunt Daisy’ nor your mother would stand a chance against the White Alpha and her Blue Beta. Had you actually killed one of their ponies, they would have called for blood.” Rex and Bud turned incredulous looks toward him. “You obviously haven’t gotten as far in your lessons as I originally thought if you didn’t know that.”

“What do those two have anything to do with it? They can’t do anything to us.” Rex proclaimed proudly, but there was a hint of uncertainty in his eyes. Like any true predator, Fido pounced at this sign of weakness.

“That’s where you would be wrong.” He reached up a forepaw and tapped his collar with his claw. “These collars we wear, they were forced on our ancestors by the White Alpha and her Blue Beta after the Chaos time to mark us. Divide us!” He ended the sentence with a snarl right up in the pups’ face. “So, yes. They can and will take blood for blood.”

The two pups recoiled from the very large teeth being bared not three centimeters from their faces and looked at each other. Silence between the three hung heavily for a few minutes, broken only by the noises of the wild life in the forest beside them. Suddenly, with a great gusting sigh, Fido relaxed his aggressive stance and idly scratched his jaw. “Look, I have better things to do today. Fill in the hole, go home and ask your parents about the White Alpha and her Beta.” He turned and walked back to his hole.

“No. I want you to tell us.” Rex’s voice floated in his ear. Fido waved his forepaw dismissively, not even bothering to turn around.

“Forget it pup.”

“If you don’t come back and tell us the story I’m gonna tell our mom and dad that you hit Bud!”
Fido froze mid-step. The fur that normally laid flat along his spine formed a ridge up his back as it raised at the threat. His ears twitched occasionally as his mind visibly raced. Finally his fur returned to normal as he slumped his shoulders in defeat and turned around.

“One of these days some snotty nosed pup from the Sapphire, Amethyst or Ruby Dogs is going to do to you exactly what you’re doing to me. When that happens, and it will, you mark my words, I’m just going to sit there and laugh.” He grumbled as the two as he sat down and leaned against a tree. “Alright; you two know the first song, right?” Both Rex and Bud bobbed their heads as they sat in front of him. “Good. I’ll tell you what happened but I don’t want a single yip from either of you, got it?” Another round of eagerly bobbing heads gave him his answer as he started the story.

“Once the snow stopped falling and began to melt the three herds, Earth, Flying and Magic stopped fighting and moved to these lands as one herd. Naturally we followed them and we continued to hunt them as usual for uncounted generations until the three herds began to fight again. It was of little concern to us until we saw the source of the conflict. A foal had been born that had the abilities of all three herds.

The fighting continued for many years and even as the foal grew older and able to make her own choices they would not stop. She left them as soon as she was an adult, probably hoping that without her to fight over, they would stop. But they didn’t; in fact, our records tell that it actually got worse. From the fighting came the Chaos.

The magic herd lost the sun and the moon, the flying herd lost the wind and the weather, the earth herd lost the land and their crops as the Chaos warped everything it touched. Our ancestors were not unaffected as the trees and plants became predators. Those dogs and bitches unfortunate enough to be consumed by the plants became our cousins, Timberwolves.

A thousand years passed with Chaos as Alpha and we lost many pack members to the fact it liked to curse the prey we ate. Eating a pony or a rabbit often stole intelligence, but it could change us into other things as well. Many of the trees in the Everfree were once Dogs that were tainted by Chaos. Despite our dwindling numbers, we were not idle; no, far from it. For the lifespan of nine Alphas, each one had every able member of the pack training to fight the Chaos in case the opportunity arose. But the Chaos never showed any weakness we could exploit.

Then the white mare of all three herds returned to the land and with her was a blue mare just like her. Our Alpha Dog and Bitch at the time, Longfang and Bloodpaw, told us to be ready. So we gathered all our fighters and waited. We waited as the white and blue mare challenged the Chaos. We waited for many sleep cycles as the three fought. The two mares finally defeated the Chaos and even though they were tired and weak, the blue mare took control of the moon.

Bloodpaw ordered us to strike!

A quarter of our forces were sent to separate the blue mare from the white one and capture her alive with minimal harm while the rest attacked the white mare to kill. Many generations since then have wondered at the orders of Bloodpaw, but even today we don’t know the reason behind it. However, I digress.

Thousands of dogs and bitches attacked the white mare and she alone fought them all off. Then the sun rose on the horizon and on her flank. Suddenly she was fully healed and all of us were defeated, but not dead. She called us traitors and creatures of Chaos before she magicked the gem-Collars around our necks and marked not only Longfang and Bloodpaw with Tags, but six others as well. Diamond was first and lowest, Citrine was above Diamond, then Emerald, Sapphire, Amethyst, Ruby and then Spinel. She proclaimed herself White Alpha of the ponies and her sister became Blue Alpha of the ponies as well. But the Blue Alpha was obviously smaller and weaker, so she became known as Beta. We were forbidden from hunting ponies and warned that any that disobeyed would be slain, as well as their assigned pack.

None of the dogs or bitches really believed her. They’d attacked her with lethal intent and she spared their lives. So the Sapphire Dogs were the first, and last, to break this rule. The White Alpha came down upon them with a vengeance and killed all but a single, Heavy bitch.”

Fido groaned as he rolled his stiff shoulders and glanced at the now setting sun before turning back to the amazed gazes of Rex and Bud. “Well, you two … *gurk*!” He was interrupted by a blur of washed out blue tackling him and pinning him to the ground. The bear like jaws of the bitch held his throat in a light but threatening grip; her claws dug into his stomach, ready to disembowel him at the slightest provocation.

“Rex, Bud, go home now!” The bitch snarled surprisingly clearly despite her mouth being full of throat. Both pups didn’t even hesitate to dive into the nearest hole that wasn’t their pit trap. Both adults remained locked in that position for another couple of minutes before the jaws left his throat and the paw left his stomach, leaving behind a yellow pool.

“I swear by the First Alphas I never …” Fido begged for his life while he remained on his back, all vitals exposed to the bitch now looking at him with a bemused expression as she shook her wet paw off. “… came upon the trap by chance and when I got out …”

“I know what happened. Stop pissing yourself and get up.” Fido rolled onto his stomach and slowly pushed himself up into a sitting position. With his tail still tucked tightly against his stomach and his shoulders hunched so that her head was above his, he looked up at her and avoided her toxic yellow eyes by fixing them on the emeralds in her collar. She continued to talk to him. “I was here the whole time. When I saw what you were I stayed hidden, figuring the pups would finally learn something. Never did it cross my mind that it would be a history lesson.”

“How …” Fido gulped. “How did you know I wouldn’t hurt them?”

“You’re a Diamond. You’re desperate, not suicidal.” Her expression was smug as Fido flinched and finally looked up at her with shocked eyes. “Oh yes, I know; so do the rest of the bitch-guards. By now I’d wager the Alphas know too the way they talk.” She yawned and stretched. “I’m going home now, got to tell my pack-sister what her pups have been up to and make sure this hole is filled before morning.” As she turned around and began to walk back in the direction she’d leapt from, she paused but didn’t turn to face him as she said, “The White Alpha only said we couldn’t hunt ponies.” Then she vanished underground.

Just as the sun began its descent below the horizon, Fido’s ears twitched as the flat tone of a bell clanged in the distance and his brow furrowed in thought. The clanking continued for a few minutes before another sound reached his ears, a sound that spread comprehension and delight across his features.


Fido and Spot stuck together at the very end of a long line of dogs and with every step one or the other would look behind them. Past the heavily laden, covered wooden wagon with steel lined wooden wheels that clanked noisily over every bump and down to the entrance of the tunnel to the First Den. Rover wasn’t with them.

“He … he might just be late. It’s a long way to Dragon Egg Mountain.” Spot muttered quietly, hopefully.

“Day and a half there, day of rest, day to steal an egg, day and a half back; that’s saying he survived.” Fido sighed. The air between them was heavy as they continued to walk forward. Reaching into the pocket of his vest, he pulled out Rover’s Collar and Tag. Spot’s eye was drawn to the gleaming Tag and he scowled.

“Boss’ll be here!” Spot growled as he grabbed Fido’s wrist. Fido looked down at the smaller dog with sad eyes and shook his head.

“If Rover had escaped with a dragon egg, we would know by now. The very forest would be ablaze. It’s time to face facts Spot, he’s dead and we must have an Alpha when it’s our turn to present our Tribute.”

“Listen,” Spot began earnestly. “the Amethysts just started. Couldn’t you at least wait until the Emeralds leave the Den? ‘Cause once that Collar and Tag go on …” He trailed off and whimpered as he looked at the empty tunnel behind them. Fido sighed.

“Alright. I’ll wait until the Emeralds leave.”

Only the chatter of the dogs ahead of them filled the tunnel as the Amethysts left and the Alphas permitted the entry of the Sapphires. The process repeated for the Sapphires and the Emeralds. Spot whimpered and Fido didn’t remove his gaze from the stones at his paws. The Emeralds left and with a last somber, longing look behind them; Fido removed his old Collar and put on the sign of his new rank.

Diamond Dog Alpha.

Author's Note:

Done for the World-Building Alliance January Writing Contest.

Only the first third of the story has actually been edited (Thank you Kartal!) and I'd like to apologize right now for any glaring grammatical errors.

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