• Published 24th Jan 2013
  • 1,180 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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4- Studies In Canis

As the moon vanished in the west and the sun truly began its ascent, Twilight Sparkle could be found sitting at the edge of one of the orchards of Sweet Apple Acres, saddlebag filled with quills and blank scrolls, simply looking past the new boundary the Dogs had set. Every time a patrol passed her line of sight, she set her quill racing across the parchment, scribbling notes and sketching whatever body part she could get a clear view of. Slowly, a picture of a bitch came together amongst all her notes. The quill continued to fly across the page as she narrated her observations out loud.

“Distinct sexual dimorphism between males and females; male forelegs/arms are an estimated two times longer and significantly more muscled than hind legs. Exact joint/wrist range of motion is unknown but is fairly wide according to a witness statement; they are able to pick objects up and articulate forepaw digits independently. Females appear to be primarily quadrupeds with the ability to stand in a bipedal posture for a short amount of time.”

Twilight paused and tapped her chin thoughtfully before continuing. “Both genders exhibit digitigrade hindquarters and plantigrade forequarters; with the female bearing thicker, stronger claws on the forepaws. This suggests the females are more hunter/fighters than their male counterparts." As she finished the paragraph, Twilight couldn't help but shudder at what she written.

“What are you doing?" A gravelly voice asked from behind her. Twilight’s ear rotated toward the sound but her gaze remained fixed on the forest in front of her.

“Studying the Diamond Dogs; there’s an alarmingly inadequate amount of information about them in any of Equestria’s libraries," she replied as another patrol passed, her brow furrowed a little in confusion as a notation was made about the colour of the gems in the collar.)

“I asked Princess Celestia about them, but she could only tell me things that are painfully obvious. They’re obligate carnivores who occasionally supplement with gems and follow a pack structure," she huffed as her quill continued to dance. “Then she advised me to stay away from them.”

“Hmm, so for the sake of learning something new, you are disobeying her?”

Twilight squirmed. “I’m technically not disobeying her. I’m staying outside their territory and merely observing—Ooo!" One of the bitch-guards had stopped and was openly staring right at Twilight and the one she was having her conversation with.

“Interesting…" she murmured as she picked up the quill in her telekinetic grip again and set it to paper. “Collars are seen bearing different types of gems. Thus seen are emerald, citrine, ruby, sapphire, amethyst, diamond and black spinel; possible link to pack structure," she noted, lost again in her research. A few minutes later, another bitch-guard, this one with sapphires in her collar, stopped and stared right beside the citrine studded one.

“Would it be rude of me to ask what you have learned by your ‘observing’?" The voice asked politely.

“What?" Twilight asked in a distracted way before her ear flicked and she belatedly answered the question absentmindedly. “Oh, right. Well I have a lot of theories right now; facts are few and far between I’m afraid. Why are they just standing there?”

“Please, I am very interested. I would like to hear both.”

“I’m sorry,” Twilight apologised as she shook her head. “until I have more than circumstantial evidence to support any of my theories I can’t tell just anypony; it would be irresponsible of me as a scientist to allow what is currently only speculation to promote a negative, well even more negative, bias against the Diamond Dogs. Especially if everything that’s happening now turns out to be a simple cultural misunderstanding.”

“Hmmm, it is perhaps a similar situation to that of the first negotiations with the Gryphons?" Twilight’s unknown guest mused aloud.

“Exactly!" Twilight declared. “Negotiations broke down because Ambassador…" she trailed off as she finally turned her head to speak directly to the one behind her.

Alpha Widepaw sat there, looking very amused.

Twilight slowly stood up and took a step backward, the sudden surge of adrenaline in her system shrinking her iris and pupils to mere pinpricks in terror. The Alpha raised one lethal looking forepaw the size of Twilight’s entire head… and scratched behind her ear before turning to the frozen pony.

“Calm down. It is as you say, you are outside our territory. Neither I, nor the packs, have any power here." Alpha Widepaw stood and loped off toward the forest. Twilight stared before calling out to the retreating bitch.

“Wait! Why are you doing this to Ponyville? Surrounding us and cutting us off?”

The Alpha laughed as she vanished into a bush and called out a taunt that hung in the air of Sweet Apple Acres. “Learn, little pony. Learn what our future holds and I will answer all your questions!”

Twilight’s ears slowly came forward as she tilted her head slightly with her brow furrowed in thought. Her expression then morphed into determination as she began to pack up her notes and quills. “I’ll be holding you to that promise, Alpha Widepaw,” she commented to the empty space around her as she used her magic to adjust her saddle-bags before trotting toward Ponyville.

“Alpha,” the Sapphire bitch began tentatively. “I don’t understand. The pony was right in front of you!”

“You would be wise to remember to not question my choices." A baleful glare was sent to the subordinate. “Any other day, I would’ve punished you for that. Not today though, no, for I’ve learned something important. Go to Diamond territory; tell Fido and Spot I want to see them immediately. And you,” Her gaze turned on the Citrine bitch, “return to your patrol. Tell nodog what happened today.”

“Yes Alpha," the two bitches responded in chorus as they went to fulfill their assigned tasks.

Alpha Widepaw watched them go before turning deeper into the Everfree. The thick canopy above her did not allow the rays of the sun to touch either her or the forest floor and instead cast everything in dark shadows. Her gait, however, was loose and unconcerned even with things rustling in the bushes behind her as her olfactory senses went into overdrive. Steadily, she approached a large hill topped by a truly massive tree that stretched into the sky. Carved deep into the hill was the entrance to a large tunnel and it was from this gaping maw of soil and stone that a glowing pair of green eyes appeared.

“Shhh. It’s just me cousins," Widepaw soothed in a surprisingly soft voice. “I have good news; Alpha Moon is back from her banishment. She has been for weeks now, according to the bitch-guard at the castle. I know we’ve missed her first full moon, but we will change that. We made a mistake a thousand years ago by telling her everything; it only enraged her, brought forth her dark aspect. This time, we must sing to her heart." She paused and listened to a seemingly wordless whine before she shook her head.

“No, I haven’t told the packs about Her return yet. That information must come from a different source at the right time, when the attention of all the Packs is on her. I promise though, when the right time comes, if she hasn’t revealed Alpha Moon’s return, I’ll push her into confirming it." There was a chuff from the darkness and Widepaw smiled sadly as she turned away.

In the First Den, Fido and Spot patiently waited for their Alphas and were rewarded as they strode in calmly and took their position on the low ledge. “My mate and I have an important task for you two, one that will take you beyond the safety of Our territory and will necessitate the aid of the bitch-guard We will send along with you." The two Diamond males looked up sharply at that with wide eyes and bated breaths.

“Eyes down!" Alpha Steelfang snapped. Fido and Spot were quick to obey but stole a nervous glance at each other.

“We are hesitant to send Spot along with you Fido, as he is still young, but at this time it would be cruel to separate you two after your recent loss. So We decided the both of you, plus the bitch-guard, will travel to the Rogue pack and tell them they are encouraged to return.”

“The Rogues?!" The Diamonds yelped in surprise mixed with a high pitch of frantic fear. Fido took the conversation from there.

“Ah… pardon our sudden outburst Alphas," he began with an apologetic tone, “but the Rogues… we are very surprised you would welcome them back, given their crimes against the Packs.”

“Understandable," Steelfang nodded. “Be sure to tell them it is less ‘welcome back with covered teeth’ and more ‘screw up just once and exile will be lenient’.”

Fido gulped. “Understood Alphas," he acknowledged. “Is there anything else we should make sure they are aware of?”

Alpha Widepaw’s eyes widened in an ‘ah’ moment. “Actually yes, there is." She turned around and withdrew a rolled scroll from a shelf behind her carefully with her mouth. As her mouth was full, Alpha Steelfang continued for her.

“On this scroll is the Mark of a magic pony. The mare that bears this Mark is under Our Protection, for the time being. For those who do return with you, it’ll be your job as their Alpha to make sure they Get It. The rest of the Packs will be informed as they leave for their patrols."

When he finished, Alpha Widepaw dropped the scroll and it unfurled when it hit the earth below. Spot’s eyes flicked upwards for less than a heartbeat and he received a nod from both Alphas. Reaching one light brown forepaw forward, he picked up the scroll and fully unrolled it, fully revealing the Mark outline within. One large six-pointed star sat atop another one and surrounding it were five smaller stars. Fido barely choked out his next words.

“Y-yes Alphas. We’ll go as soon as you give your permission.”

“You have Our permission and Our blessing; bitch-guard Kell is waiting for you at the East exit." The two Diamond Dogs nodded respectfully to their Alphas before departing the Den.

Alphas Steelfang and Widepaw waited in the silence for nearly ten minutes before their posture relaxed and they retreated to their private cave before Widepaw whirled on her mate.

“I can’t believe I agreed to this! The Diamonds? Steelfang, what were you thinking?!”

Steelfang actually flinched at the sudden outburst and turned to face her with a confused expression.

“What? Widepaw, you were all for this earlier, what happened?”

“What happened is that I actually took the time to think about it!" she snapped. “And I found that the more I thought about it, the more absurd it was! I’m a Bitch of my word though; I held my misgivings until I could confront you privately.”

“I know you have your reservations about the Diamonds, especially since they started this whole chain of events," Steelfang soothed. “Hear me out at least." Widepaw sat down and nodded, but her eyes bored into him. He seemed unaffected by her smoldering anger. “What do you remember about Rover the most?”

She blinked and raised her eyebrow. “We rule over a few hundred Dogs and you expect me to remember the quirks of a single Dog, a dead Diamond no less?" Steelfang nodded and she rolled her eyes. “I only know this because all the bitch-guards are such horrible gossips; Rover was obsessed with that white thief, so much so that it’s a wonder he didn’t take her sooner." Her eyes narrowed again. “I hope you get to your point soon, a dead Dog has no relevance in the here and now.”

A knowing grin split Steelfang’s face from ear to ear. “This morning, you found that magic pony watching the patrols. When you told me about it, you admitted to being impressed by how much she had seemingly learned just by watching in those dawn hours.”

“And this connects with Rover… how?”

“Now I want you to imagine what a Dog who watched a pony using gem-finding magic for almost fourteen years could learn." Steelfang lifted a forepaw up in front of her muzzle and a soft, wavering blue glow surrounded it. Widepaw’s jaw just about hit the ground. “Great bounties await those who survive a famine, love. Rover figured out how Dogs could harness magic; he left behind a legacy that all Dogs, now and forever, will remember his name for.”

The silence between Fido, Spot and Kell was thick and heavy as they made their way up the slight incline of the tunnel. Kell’s expression was of boredom, Spot’s face betrayed his unease and Fido’s was a confusing mix of apprehension and anger.

“Fido,” he began, “what’re we gonna do ‘bout the rogues? They’re probably a lot stronger than us.”

“Older too, Fido rumbled irritably. “But definitely not wiser. I don’t know what we’re going to do yet. For all we know, we’ll get there only to find out the traitors have killed each other in a massive power struggle. They’re certainly capable of it.”

Kell turned her head to address Fido. “What do you know about this bunch of rogues that I don’t? If I’m going to keep you two Diamonds alive, I need information.”

Spot’s head swivelled and he looked at her with wide eyes. “You don’t know? I figured with the way you bitches talk, all the packs knew by now!”

“No, nodog talks about the rogues. All that the bitch-guards of the time will tell us is that they’ve been ordered silent by the Alphas about the incident, which is strange because no Alpha has ever ordered silence on anything.” She shook her head. “I honestly can’t think of any reason they would.”

With his stony faced gaze fixed on some point ahead of them, Fido grunted and his hackles began to rise. Spot flinched and shut his mouth before dropping back a couple of metres. Seeming to catch the hint, Kell fell back and joined the younger dog. “What’s his problem?” she whispered. Ahead, Fido’s ear flicked but he said nothing.

Spot’s gaze watched Fido’s reaction to the question for a few steps before he apparently decided it was safe to answer in a barely audible voice. “I dunno. I’ve never seen him like this before. It’s kinda scary. Done lots of stupid stuff and he’s never gone hackles up before. If I was you, I wouldn’t bug him.”

The corner of Kell’s mouth twitched upward. “Don’t worry pup, I’m a Spinel, I can handle a Diamond Alpha. Tell me what you do know.”

Spot’s head shook. “Not much. I wasn’t long off the teat when everything happened. All he and Rover ever told me was that a bunch of stupid dogs and bitches got banished for cheatin’ against the Alphas, he shrugged.

“Cheating? How so?” Kell asked. She only got another shrug in response from Spot.

“Alpha Challenge. They laced the Alphas dinner with poison joke the night before, Fido told them quietly, stopping in his tracks. “The Alphas didn’t order silence because of what the poison joke did to them, no, they could have lived with that.” He had Spot and Kell’s attention now and they strained their ears in their attempt to hear his words. “They ordered silence to protect the ones who couldn’t protect themselves from possible retribution if word got out. To protect those so loyal to them, they refused the orders of their own family. Rover, myself and you, Spot, we became the last of the Diamonds. Fido turned now, his stony expression gone and replaced with regret. “Rover and I were twelve when our pack was banished Spot; our plan was that we would tell you when you were a full adult and able to defend yourself. Then the three of us would go to the Den, tell the Alphas it was time we shouldered the weight of the crime our pack committed.”

The two were frozen in place with visible shock at the tale, but Fido continued as he walked up to Spot and sat down in front of him. “You must understand Spot, the Alphas have always shown us kindness, understanding and forgiveness. The first Tribute Day after the banishment, Rover and I went to the storage cave to use the gems put aside for a new territory, only to find them all gone. The rogues had taken it all with them when they left. The Alphas forgave us that year, and the year after that, and the year after that. You were only four when we had our first, proper Tribute. My brother and I raised you as best we could; we tried to make sure you had enough food, make sure to teach you all the lessons and Songs we’d been taught, give you the chance to enjoy your youth.” He chuckled ruefully. “We knew that we had at least succeeded there, given how much trouble you regularly got into.”

Fido turned to Kell now. “If all of them are still alive, we’ll be facing a pack of twenty two dogs and bitches; maybe more if any of them have borne live pups since then. And don’t think I didn’t hear your remark about being a Spinel means you could defeat me. The Diamond Alpha back then was my father and if he hadn’t tried to cheat, I think he would have had a decent chance against Alpha Steelfang. You have youth on him, maybe even speed, but he has more experience than the three of us put together.” He pointed his fore claw at her nose. “Remember that.”

Having made his point, he turned around and continued walking. Wide eyed with the recent revelations, Spot hurried to his side.

“Y’never said what’chu were gonna do if we found them.”

“The only thing I can do if they don’t submit to Alpha Steelfang’s and Alpha Widepaw’s orders,” he told Spot as they reached the end of the tunnel and emerged into the moonlit sky just outside of the Everfree. An Alpha Challenge.”

“Assuming you win, that is, Kell mentioned from his other side. “What then? Are you really going to trust a pack of traitors just like that?”

“Not a chance.” Fido shook his head before meeting Kell’s eyes. “That’s why I’m naming you Beta, to make sure they don’t stab me in the back and to watch them and see if any of them are trustworthy.”

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