• Published 24th Jan 2013
  • 1,181 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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3 - Bloody Paws

The quick clip-clop of metal shoes rebounded in the bowels of the castle as Princess Celestia, with Shining Armour at her side, strode down the sparsely lit hallway. It was by no means extravagant, more like a rough-hewn tunnel and kept in near pitch darkness. Both the Princess and Captain bore serious, no nonsense expressions as they opened a thick wooden door that led into a cave. The spinel studded collar and nearly silver coat of the bitch-guard gleamed in the dim candlelight as she raised her gaze from the scroll she was reading to the two ponies.

“Stupid ponies at door,” she muttered. “What you want?” Shining Armour visibly bristled at her attitude.

“This is Princess Celestia! Show some respect!” he demanded. The bitch-guard narrowed her eyes and rose to her paws, hackles raised.

“No respect to Thief-Tyrant!” she barked.

Celestia brushed Shining Armour’s side with her primary feathers. “It’s alright Captain,” she told him reassuringly before turning back to the bitch-guard. “Where are the reports from your Alpha? I’d like to see them.”

“Earth pony has letters. Every month, first full moon, comes, takes letter. See him!” the bitch-guard snarled.

Celestia inhaled deeply and exhaled. “What did he look like?”

“Gray body, black long fur on head, tail. Mark is…” she struggled for a minute before she shrugged. Sighing, Celestia used her magic to project a martini glass with an olive in it on the wall. The bitch-guard’s pale orange eyes widened. “Yes. That,” she confirmed before raising her massive forepaw and slapping an unopened scroll toward Celestia. “New letter, five moon rises.”

“Thank you. In the future, I will be coming to retrieve the reports myself.” The bitch-guard simply gave the two of them a deadpan look before huffing dismissively and walking back to the scroll she had been reading. Taking the hint, Celestia closed the door and began walking away with Shining Armour at her heels.

“Your Highness?” he began tentatively. “Why did you stop me? That Dog should be showing you more respect.”

“The Dogs, like most predators, are followers of the moon; thus my relationship with them has always been strained. I take no offence Shining Armour, and neither should you; it is simply their nature. The females in particular have very short tempers and are primarily members of their Guard. You would do well to remember not to provoke them.”

“Yes, Your Majesty, understood,” Shining Armour acknowledged as they turned a corner into the castle proper and began walking up the stairs to the Royal Wing. “What will you do now, Your Highness?”

“Now we must speak with my nephew, to see what has become of the reports that were never brought to my attention.” A very cross look flashed across her delicate features, sending a shudder down the spine of her Captain of the Guard.

The atmosphere between them became tense as they crested the top of the stairs and walked down the marble hallway. The walls were draped in ancient tapestries depicting moments in a history so far gone the art of stained glass hadn’t been discovered yet. One was a group of regal unicorns raising the sun, beside it was a flock of armoured warrior pegasi brandishing swords in their mouths and on the leading edges of their wings fighting a dragon. A moment of the life of ancient earth ponies frozen in time as they worked the fields and harvested trees followed. As they continued, the woven histories gradually became more unicorn-centric as they closed in on their destination:

The quarters of Prince Blueblood.

Shining Armour couldn’t hold back a disdainful eye roll before Celestia tapped the gaudy, gilded door. It was a few heartbeats before it was opened by a black-maned, gray coated stallion with a martini glass cutie mark. The stallion immediately bowed upon seeing them.

“Your Highness, Captain Shining Armour. Please enter and make yourselves comfortable. Would you like any refreshments?” He stepped clear of the door and gestured for them to enter.

“No thank you Martin, I’m afraid this is not a social call. There are urgent matters I must speak with Prince Blueblood about; if you would be so kind as to inform him of our presence?” she requested as they all walked into the room but chose to remain standing instead of resting on the plush visitor chairs.

“Of course Princess; I shall inform the Prince immediately.” Martin trotted out of the room. Shining Armour twitched his ear before settling his features into a stony, unflappable countenance.

“Auntie!” Blueblood declared enthusiastically as he strode into the room, his eyes landing on Shining Armour. “Captain,” he acknowledged in a much more subdued tone and with a twitch in his cheek. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?”

“Nothing pleasant nephew; the Dogs are taking a much more aggressive stance, I require all the reports that have been collected for the past fourteen years.”

“Those animals?” he blurted. Celestia sent him a disapproving look that made him cough. “Auntie, allow me to deal with them, you need not to sully your hooves with this matter.”

“I’m afraid not Blueblood, any diplomacy at this stage would require the utmost delicacy as it seems I have unknowingly breached the Treaty; a breach that could have been prevented had the relevant reports been brought to my attention.”

Blueblood audibly gulped at the suddenly severe look being directed at him. “Ah…” He began to squirm.

“The reports, nephew. Now.” The time for pleasantries was apparently over and Blueblood was looking increasingly uncomfortable. He was spared further scrutiny by a pale green wisp of ash and smoke that swirled in front of Celestia’s face before coalescing into a neatly bound scroll.

Dear Princess Celestia,

I thought our troubles with the Diamond Dogs to be over, but it seems it was only the beginning. Several signs in their language and ours have already been posted on the side of the road leading into town and along the northwest quadrant claiming that these signs are the new borders of their territory and that any trespassers will be killed! Mayor Mare and I approached one of the guards and asked to speak with their leaders about this. We talked to Alphas Steelfang and Widepaw. They allowed us to read the terms of the Treaty concerning territory expansion along with what they claim are the most recent maps of the area surrounding the quarry that the Royal Cartographers had sent to them.

Princess, the map predates the founding of Ponyville by nearly a century and the Treaty allows for expansion into crown land that hasn’t been obviously claimed. It’s all legal, so long as they’re telling the truth when they say that is the most recent map received. When I asked about the road, Steelfang asked what I was talking about, and said that there was only a game trail! And they’re right; the road into Ponyville is only a road in the loosest sense.

Everypony is trapped here Princess, even access to the train station has been cut off. Nopony is willing to test just how serious they are about killing trespassers.

Your Faithful Student,

Twilight Sparkle

Celestia’s expression became pained as she reached up with one forehoof and massaged her temple. “I’ll take that tea now Martin.”

“Burned,” Celestia stated in a deadpan manner.

Blueblood cringed. “Yes Auntie. Six weeks ago one of the servants tripped and broke an oil lantern against one of the archival shelves, remember? It was the day Aunt Luna… returned. We lost not only the Dog reports, but almost half of the Minotaur ones as well. The Archivists are still copying and replacing the lost reports from the Royal Reference Library. Unfortunately the ones from the Dogs were never copied and stored there.”

Celestia took a sip of tea, her expression one of quiet contemplation. “The Dogs don’t trust me, for reasons that are valid, I will admit. And in the current climate, they may attack any ambassador I send who doesn’t have the ability to protect themselves.”

“Perhaps Aunt Luna–”

Princess Celestia cut him off with a curt “No” before he could say anything more. “Luna is still recovering,” was the only reason she offered for an explanation.

“Cousin Cadance is still in Zebrica…” he mused as he sipped his tea. “All the ambassadors intelligent enough to talk the Dogs onto peaceful terms simply don’t have the power or the knowledge to keep themselves safe.” Now it was Blueblood’s turn to sigh. “The predators are always so aggressive and unreasonable…”

“Aggressive, yes. But the Dogs are not entirely unreasonable. If a neutral party were to approach them, they would listen.” She took another sip and the silence in the room became a tangible thing.

Shining Armour, seemingly forgotten, coughed. “Your Majesties, if I may be permitted to suggest something?”

Two pairs of royal eyes turned his way. “Of course Captain, a suggestion would be appreciated,” Celestia replied; Blueblood nodded in agreement.

“Patrols along the Gryphon border have frequently reported trading between the Aeries and the Dogs, most often travel permits through their lands, sometimes cloth for gems and refined ores. Given our own good relations with them, they may agree to act as intermediaries.”

All four eyes blinked. “That… might work,” Prince Blueblood mused out loud. “We acted in the same manner during the squabble they had with the dragons over territory before it could escalate. Auntie, what do you think?” He turned toward Celestia and found a pleased smile gracing her lips.

“It’s a most excellent idea, Shining Armour. I shall send the missive as soon as the ink dries.”

“Thank you, Your Highness,” the Captain briefly beamed before returning to more professional manners by wiping his face clear of all expression.

“Why would the Dogs make such regular trips through Gryphon territory? There’s nothing beyond it but the badlands.” The blue eyes of the Prince were confused, but filled with befuddlement when he saw remorse cover his aunt like a blanket. Her wings and ears drooped as a great weight seemed to drop on her shoulders.

She slowly shook her head. “That which I forbade them from obtaining within Equestria’s borders so long ago: sustenance. I do regret my decision, but not enough to revoke it.”

“Sustenance, auntie? You’re denying them the right to eat?”

“The Dogs, like the Gryphons and Dragons, are top tier predators. Unlike Gryphons, however, they cannot eat fruits, vegetables or grains; and unlike Dragons, they cannot survive solely on gems. Thus their diet used to consist of anypony they could catch. After I forbade pony predation, I strongly suggested that hunting any sapient life would be to their detriment. Unfortunately, enforcing that edict within the Everfree where they do hunt is problematic,” Celestia calmly told her nephew, who had turned a very unflattering shade of green by the end of it. “Let’s return to much more promising matters, shall we? What do you propose we offer the Gryphons for their assistance?”

In a single instant of silent mutual agreement, Shining Armour and Prince Blueblood glanced at each other with worry in their features.

Luna’s pursed lips and drooping ears were the only visible signs of hurt as she watched her sister and the Captain of the Solar Guard leave the quarters of her nephew with an air of accomplishment about them.

“T’was obviously a meeting of great import, why were We not invited to attend?” she whispered to herself despondently as she turned to walk in the opposite direction. “Does Tia still think Us weak?” She twisted her head to glance at her dark blue body and her very plain tail.

“Perhaps she is right to think so. We hath not yet regained much of Our power. As yet, We are still unable to raise Our moon.” Sighing, she glanced out a window that offered a decent view of Canterlot. As usual, now that the moon was out, all the streets were empty. “Nothing has changed. Our night remains shunned by Our subjects.”

“The moon is high,
The air is sweet.”

Luna’s ears quickly flipped forward to isolate the dim strains of music riding in on the moonlight streaming in.

“Stars shine and dance,
The ponies hide…”

“Their fear, our boon
The Night is ours
Raise your nose
And praise the mooooon!”

The last word stretched into a high pitched howl. With a dull ‘clop’, Luna’s shoes landed on the sill of the window as she stretched her neck outside, her ears still swivelling.

“The sun we fear
Her rolling heat
Light like sharp glass
The Tyrant leers.”

“We hate her we loathe her.
She stole our voice,”

Luna’s coat rippled with darker colours as she launched herself from the window and banked left.

“Our Champion.
Our Alpha of dark azure.”

“The moon is high,
The air is sweet.
Stars shine and dance,
The ponies hide…”

“Their fear, our boon
The Night is ours
Raise your nose
And praise the mooooon!”

The singing stopped there and Luna’s eyes widened as she rounded a tower wall and saw… nothing. The singer was gone.

“No…” she muttered as she landed in the soft grass. “No, no. Where art thou singer? Why hast thou left when thou were singing to Us? Dids’t thou not know We would hear thee?” She scuffed her hoof into the soil, releasing the still fresh motes of scent that had been clinging to the blades of grass. Luna sneezed, then she blinked.

“We know this scent…” She trotted toward the base of the castle, occasionally dropping her nose to the ground and sniffing. The colour of her coat continued to fluctuate as she ignored the guard posted at the entrance to a cave and entered it. Her nose dropped once more to the floor as the ever-darkening hallway she traversed offered nothing but the lonely echoes of her shoes striking the stone floor and the lingering scent of the singer.

Passing the wooden bulkheads supporting the walls and ceilings from the weight of the castle above and wall sconces holding torches, Luna took it in with curiosity. “So strange, yet so familiar…” she trailed off when she stopped in front of a wooden door. Hesitating for a moment, she knocked.

A low growling sound began that became louder as the occupant closed in on the other side of the door. Luna’s fore-hooves shifted so they were perfectly in line with her body, her chest thrust out, her neck arched, her head angled downward so her gaze burned into the door and her shifting fur colour settled into a very dark, nearly black, cobalt blue.

The door slammed open and the Alicorn and bitch-guard stared at each other for a heartbeat before the bitch-guard, the one that had disrespected Princess Celestia earlier that day, dropped like a sack of bricks to the floor and exposed her belly with a reverent whisper.


Foam-flecked saliva flew from the flapping tongue hanging from the frothy lips of the bitch-guard from the castle as she ran through the long tunnel connecting her cave in Canterlot Castle to the First Den. Her exhaustion was audible in each rasping breath, in each deep gulp of the air her body must have been screaming for. But she didn’t stop to rest; despite the bloody prints each pounding paw left behind and the wild look in her eyes she kept running.

Dogs and bitches fortunate enough to see the black spinel set in her white collar jumped out of her way while those not so fortunate were ruthlessly shoved aside as she barreled through. With a final leap she surged into the Den where the Alphas were holding an audience with the Amethyst Pack and collapsed as though boneless, heavily panting.

The Den exploded with activity and noise as all those present all rushed to the prone bitch-guard.

“She can’t breathe!”

“… choking her! Get her Collar off!”

“Call the Healers!”

“… water!”

“Not that much! She’ll just throw it back up!”

“… paws are shredded!”

“SILENCE!” Both Alphas roared in unison and the noisome Den suddenly became silent as a tomb as every Dog and Bitch there gave them their utmost attention.

“Better,Alpha Steelfang told them. “The Healers are coming, so We expect all of you to get out of their way so they can do their job. We understand you want to help her, but crowding her like that will do no good.” During Alpha Steelfang's speech, Alpha Widepaw had softly padded over to the bitch-guard and began to remove her Collar. Once it was off, the bitch-guard began inhaling great gulps of air.

“A-Alpha…” she wheezed as her eyes focused on her superior.

“Shhh, Alpha Widepaw soothed. “I’m here Luella, you’re safe.”

“A-hah-Alpha…” Luella whined, her eyes showing desperation as she raised a single, badly shaking and bleeding forepaw toward the Alpha Bitch. But it got no higher than the rainbow hued Tag before it fell back to the ground. Alpha Widepaw gave Luella a comforting lick between her ears before turning to Alpha Steelfang.

“I’m going with her to the infirmary.” Her tone brooked no argument and he simply nodded his head. The Healers arrived with two grunts bearing a stretcher between them. Even Widepaw stepped to the side as they began to examining Luella, checking her pulse and airway while field bandaging her still bleeding paws. They carefully loaded her on the stretcher and gave the grunts their orders to take her straight to the healing cavern. Widepaw followed behind the Healers.

Time passed as Alpha Widepaw sat patiently across the tunnel and out of the way of the Healers running around with supplies and barking orders at each other. Finally, the Healer in charge of Luella approached her, eyes low.

“We’ve done what we can. She will recover, but it will take time and lots of rest.” He glanced toward the room he’d just come from. “She’s insistent that she must speak with you, to the extent she’s fighting the sedative. I ask that you be brief Alpha; her recovery will be hindered if she doesn’t let the potions and herbs do their job.”

Alpha Widepaw nodded. “She ran her paws bloody all the way from her post at the heart of the White Alpha’s territory just to tell me something. As soon as she relays what she must, I’m sure she’ll rest, she reassured him before turning and walking into the room.

Luella was in a sad state. The muscles around her shoulders twitched involuntarily under her slate fur, her tongue was bound with cloth to her bottom jaw so she didn’t accidentally swallow it in her drugged sleep and each of her four paws were swathed to just past her wrists in layers of thick bandages.

“What’s so urgent Luella? Why did you run without rest?”

“Owpha.” Luella’s speech was distorted by her inability to use her tongue. Alpha Widepaw leaned forward as the injured and drugged bitch continued. “Owpha Moon ith back! Hah mind fugeth, hah haht emembath!”

“Did I hear you correctly Luella? Did you say ‘Alpha Moon is back. Her mind forgets, her heart remembers’?” She pinned the prone dog down with her searching gaze as a nod answered her question. “Are you absolutely certain?

Another nod. “This changes everything, she murmured. “How long has she been back for? Did you find that out?”

“Thick weekth, almoth theven! The ith healed of hah dahkneth.”

“Alpha. Please, I must insist you leave now, the Healer said as he entered. Alpha Widepaw glanced at him before turning back to Luella.

“No. There are still things Luella needs to tell me.” He frowned at her response and crossed his forearms.

“The more she fights the potions, the more stress her body experiences. The more stress on her body, the longer she’ll take to heal. I don’t want to have to exercise my Healer’s Prerogative over you, but I will if you don’t leave and let Luella rest.”

A brief snarl escaped Alpha Widepaw’s throat, but the Healer didn’t even flinch as he stared at her. “Fine, she admitted grudgingly before turning back to Luella with a much more gentle expression on her face. “I’ll be back tomorrow. Rest now. You’ve done your duty to Us. Another bitch-guard will take your post at the castle. Do not speak of what you told me to anydog, understood?” She watched Luella nod in affirmation and turned to leave. She paused as she reached the Healer.

“I don’t appreciate being threatened Healer Skye, you of all Dogs should know that.” She growled lowly, threateningly.

“The Healer’s Prerogative allows me to override even you if your actions threaten your health or that of any of my patients. You may be The Alpha, but we Healers will do anything required to make sure the ill and the injured have what they need to heal; if that means kicking you out, so be it.” He stood firm against his Alpha’s anger as her nose twitched. The face-off ended when a wry grin curled the corner of her muzzle.

“Good. Keep that strength Healer Skye. The winds of change are coming and you’ll soon need it. I trust you won’t repeat what you’ve heard?

Healer Skye relaxed and a genuine smile crossed his features. “On my Oath as a Healer, Alpha Widepaw, not a word will escape my throat.”

As Alpha Widepaw walked away, Skye’s smile melted into a troubled frown. “Winds of change indeed, he murmured to himself while glancing to make sure his patient was sleeping. Seeing her deeply slumbering form on the bed, he nodded and quietly padded out of the cave. The two grunts that had carried Luella from the first den were still standing in the hall. “You,” he said pointing to the one on the left. Go to the sleep cave.” His gaze turned to the other one as the first lumbered off. “You stay, guard door. Only me allowed in. Understand?”

The dull eyes of the guard gave Skye a languid blink before he slowly nodded and sat in front of the entrance to Luella’s room. Healer Skye sniffed the air for a few moments until he rolled his eyes and began jogging through the healing caverns with an exasperated sounding sigh. After going around a corner, he slowed down and strolled into another cave with a stern expression.

The Dog on the bed before him was missing large patches of fur on his chest, belly and forelegs. The exposed areas were covered in severe rashes and signs of frantic scratching. One forearm was securely tied to the bed, so Healer Skye grabbed the free forepaw that had apparently escaped it’s binding before the claws could do any more damage than it already had as evidenced by spots of slowly oozing blood. The chuckle that escaped from the white cone surrounding the Dog’s head was of embarrassment.

“Uh… hello Healer Skye.” It was probably a good thing the cone blocked the absolutely venomous glare the Healer was directing at him.

“How did you get your forepaw free this time? You’d better not have dislocated your thumb again, he warned darkly as he examined the paw in his grip and the rope still around the wrist. “Hmmph, you used your claws to fray the rope again.” He grunted before twisting his head toward the door and barking. “Apprentice Healers Hound and Tracey, come to Patient Oliver’s room immediately!”

“Aw come on Healer Skye, the last time you called those two in they put this cone on me!” the Dog whined.

“They put the cone on you because you kept chewing your shoulder! This time they’re bringing the boots and steel chains because you don’t have a toothful of the self-control your hunt partner did!” Healer Skye growled.

“Not the boots! They’re so humiliating!” he protested loudly as two Apprentice Healers entered the room. The Dog, Hound, held two lengths of thick chain and the Bitch, Tracey, carried a large, thick pair of leather forepaw mittens.

“Yes, the very same boots we give for those unfortunate enough to be afflicted with mange! As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, I released your hunt partner to return to the Amethysts because he didn’t once scratch himself until he was fully healed. You, on the other paw, have twice clawed through rope, dislocated your thumb, torn the hook out of the floor by brute force and broken the rope the same way nearly five times! It’s no wonder you blundered into what must have been the only patch of poison ivy in the entirety of the Badlands!” the Healer snarled irritably as he motioned Apprentice Healers Hound and Tracey over to his side.

For the next ten minutes, Oliver’s room was the scene of much overly dramatic howling and whining and pup-like squirming and thrashing while the three Healers secured the mitts on his large forepaws. Following that was the replacement of the breakable, rope wrist binding with solid chains and, eventually, a new application of ointment over the rashes before it was all over.

Panting with his recent exertion, Skye motioned his equally exhausted Apprentices to follow him out of the room and led them down several tunnels to his office. He glanced longingly at his chair before motioning Hound and Tracey to sit. Both sat with a relieved groan as he reached for a shelf and pulled down three metal mugs.

“Water anydog?” Skye offered. His offer was met with two enthusiastic nods. “Thought so. Patients like Oliver almost make me wish I was still training grunts.” Mugs in paw, he took a few steps toward a large barrel and twisted the valve on the tap attached to the bottom.

Nose scrunched up in disgust, Tracey looked at the older Dog as he leaned tiredly against the barrel and watched each mug fill with crystal clean water. “Why would you wish you were training grunts? You’re the Alpha Healer in the Caverns, a very prestigious position.”

“Heh, Skye muttered as he twisted the valve shut and shot her a wry grin over his shoulder. “It’s because at least I know it only takes five or six repetitions for the grunts to understand a new task. Oliver there, he’s a Healer’s worst nightmare, won’t listen to common sense. He’d be back with the Amethysts by now if he just exercised some self-restraint.” His head slowly shook from side to side. “Besides, you shouldn’t disparage the grunts. If anything, you should pity them, he remarked, lightly admonishing Tracey and passing them their mugs before sitting on a chair and taking a swig.

“They’ll never know the love of a bitch, they don’t understand the love of the Pack, they can’t even Sing, or speak.” Morosely, he watched the water in his mug as he swished it around. “They can only do things they’ve been trained to do. Sad to say, the average pony-pet is more intelligent than they are these days. It’s degenerative too, their intelligence. Each generation will be a little less intelligent than the last until they’re little more use than the slag from the refineries.”

The silence in the office was thick as Hound and Tracey gaped at him with hanging jaws and flabbergasted faces.

“B-but why?! Tracey sputtered.

“Can’t we do anything for them? We’re Healers, we should be helping them!” Her fellow Apprentice blurted out.

Healer Skye finally lifted his eyes from his mug and they were full of sorrow, the sorrow of a Healer who knows their patient is dying but can do nothing to ease the pain. “I dearly wish we could, but for the grunts there is nothing we can do but tend physical wounds.” He paused before standing and moving toward a shelf of books and running a digit along each spine until stopping at a thick tome and pulling it down. Turning back toward his chair he turned its cover toward his two students. “At this point in your Healer training, you should know this book, ‘The Dog Body’, inside and out. Tell me, what does it say about magic?”

Hound and Tracey gave each other a brief, baffled look before turning back to Skye. “Nothing. There’s nothing in the book about magic, Hound finally spoke. Healer Skye nodded.

“Exactly. Contrary to what you’ve been told, this book is not the be all and end all of how our bodies work. In fact, it only contains the physical: fur, skin, muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, cartilage, organs, etc. … But what about the metaphysical? Souls, for example?” he asked before taking another sip of water and looking at them expectantly.

Hound tilted his head quizzically. “Souls… are what make each of us unique, according to our parents, anyway.”

“Ah hah!” Skye cried triumphantly and pointed a digit at them. “Take a minute and think about that. Then think about the grunts.”

Tracey lifted a skeptical eyebrow. “Are you trying to tell us… the grunts have no souls? That’s impossible, all creatures have a soul. They can’t exist otherwise.”

Skye’s expression turned grim as he admitted And that, my Apprentices, is where magic enters the equation. Just as all creatures have souls; all creatures have a bit of magic as well. Some can access this magic, consciously or subconsciously. Others, like us, can’t access it at all. This magic anchors our souls to our bodies and when we die, the magic goes back into the world and our soul goes to join the First Alphas. Now… the grunts are different, their origin goes back about four hundred years.” He paused and took another drink. “Any questions so far?”

Both Tracey and Hound shook their heads, utterly entranced by the lesson so far.

“No? Alright then. The story itself is a long one, but the gist of it is this: four hundred years ago, Citrine Alpha Knight found an underground pool and discovered it made a twin of any who entered it. But each twin could only focus on the last thought in Alpha Knight’s mind when he went into the water. Some could only focus on hunting, some on finding gems, some on mating with a bitch, etc. The product of those unions are a lesson for another day, suffice to say, it’s the reason all grunts are neutered. My point is, even today the grunts are created by magic, and magic alone is the only thing that enables movement and learning, to its limited extent. Are they intelligent? No. Do they have personalities? No. All they can do is what they’re trained to, Healer Skye finished with a sigh.

“What happens when the grunts die?” Tracey asked softly.

“Their bodies return to their base state, magic, and return to the pool.” Without looking at them, Skye waved a paw toward the exit and muttered wearily. “Dismissed.”

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