• Published 24th Jan 2013
  • 1,178 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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6 - Truths part 2: Divided Mind, One Body

Luna flew hard and fast, ignoring the wind forcefully tugging small feathers from the leading edges of her wings and crystalline tears from her eyes. Her ear twitched as the faint echo of Celestia’s last cry of her name hung in the air, prompting her to fly even higher in a desperate bid to flee. Soon she reached such an altitude that the wind no longer moved and the curve of the world could be seen.

“A lie, everything was a lie!” she cried out as her fury rose. “I am no Princess of Equestria!” Removing her crown, gorget and shoes from her body she glanced at them before throwing them away with disgust written all over her face. Watching them fall, all the fury seemed to drain out of her as her entire posture slumped. “If I am no princess, then who am I?”

“We are Alpha Moonsong,” a voice answered sternly. Luna’s neck and head snapped upward in shock and when she saw what was before her. She cried out in no small amount of fear and rapidly back-winged, putting a good bit of distance between her and the speaker. There floated the semi-opaque form of Alpha Moonsong, formerly known as Nightmare Moon, armour and all. Luna herself had fully reverted to her smaller, lighter form in the face of her literal and figurative darker half.

“No!” Luna exclaimed. “Thou shalt not take me again monster!” she told the shadow defiantly and pitched down, hard, only to slam into a shield of moonlight. “How dare thee! Thou wouldst use the power of the Moon against me?!”

“I do no such thing!” Alpha Moonsong responded almost indignantly. “This shield is borne of the Moon itself, for it is far past time we had a proper talk. So has the Moon decreed, so it shall be!”

With an expression of utter contempt and disbelief, Luna shot a bolt of magic at the bubble surrounding the two lunar alicorns, obviously trying to shatter or dispel it. Thus, when the bolt struck and was absorbed, surprise briefly washed over her face before settling into wary reluctance. Through all this, the image of Alpha Moonsong had not moved. “Thou wert destroyed by the Elements of Harmony. By what blasphemous manner of necromantic magic hast thee used to return?” she finally asked after giving the shadow mare a measuring look.

“I was never destroyed. Not two months ago, not a thousand years ago, nor three thousand years ago. As soon as we were struck by the Elements upon our release from the moon, I inexplicably found myself almost entirely separated from you, tethered only by the thinnest of strings.” Alpha Moonsong began circling Luna like a predator. “You are me, and I am you. While powerful, the Elements of Harmony cannot, neigh, will not, irreparably alter the very core of any being. Certainly they will excise a negatively influencing outside force, bind the utterly irredeemable and, in our case, personality suppression.” She stopped her circling and faced Luna head on. “I do not pretend to know what forces direct the actions of the Elements outside of their Bearers, but I do know that the string that binds us allows us to share power.”

Luna was quiet, but did not take her suspicious eyes from Alpha Moonsong even as one ear slowly twisted in the direction of Canterlot. The only sound in the tense air between them was the sound of her own slow wing-beats keeping her aloft. “No amount of power will give you a corporal form. I have the body…” she trailed off. Alpha Moonsong finished the sentence.

“…whilst I have the memories.”

Luna sighed. “Speak no ill of Celestia within range of my ears and I shall hear your words. Despite her… errors in judgment, she cared for me.”

Alpha Moonsong’s nostrils flared as she inhaled sharply and opened her mouth to retort, and then closed her mouth with a grimace as though she’d swallowed something extremely unpalatable. “Agreed,” she ground out. “Be warned though, there are truths you will hear tonight about her you will find… very difficult to accept. As candid as Spinel Bitch-Guard Luella was with you, there are things she does not know and that Celestia has forgotten in the past two millennia.”

“How is it you have knowledge of these things then? We have been disconnected from the world and its affairs for the same amount of time,” Luna pointed out, only to be on the receiving end of a dirty look.

“YOU have been disconnected. From the moment we returned I have been checking in on our true family, the Gem Dogs. And let me tell you, I am VERY displeased by how Celestia has ignored her responsibilities to them.” Alpha Moonsong scowled.

Revelation dawned on Luna’s face just then. “It was you… you are the cause of the trouble they now cause Ponyville!”

Alpha Moonsong idly buffed her hoof against her chest and examined it. “I may have slipped an idea or two into the dreams of the Alphas. It is a shame, really. Despite their adaptability, they have almost no talent for being subtle or dishonest and in the politics Celestia surrounds herself with, it has dearly cost them. That is something I will have to teach them, if they survive the next two hundred years, that is. And in order for that to happen, they must all leave Equestria.”

Luna looked at her black-coated half with an unreadable expression. “Surely they know this, to strike against Celestia so. Why have they not?”

Alpha Moonsong rolled her eyes. “As we both know, Celestia’s temper rarely gets the better of her. But when it does, her emotions rule her actions, not logic.” The specter turned around and began descending. “Follow me, this is something you will have to sense for yourself, else you will not believe me.”

Luna found herself forced to follow as the barrier surrounding them pushed her rump in the same direction. Snorting indignantly, she angled her wings and sailed to Alpha Moonsong’s side, only to widen her eyes when she saw the primary feathers on her left wing sweep right through the semi-translucent mare. “It is only because we both are currently under the protection of the Moon that I extend any trust to thee, Nightmare Moon. One falsehood from thy lips…” she threatened as they closed in on Ponyville, more specifically, Twilight Sparkle’s Library.

Twilight exited the Carousel Boutique just as the bell of the clock tower solemnly rang four times before falling silent. Pausing as the door closed behind her, her eyes darted among the throng of nervous ponies entering the market and she sighed. “The sooner this is all over with, the better it will be for everypony.” Determination flashed onto her face. “Now to get those answers I was promised.” Her hurried canter drew a few curious glances from the townsfolk, but upon seeing that nothing was chasing her they went back to minding their own business.

Rounding a corner to a road that led straight to the Everfree, Twilight instead found herself gazing directly at the library. Pausing mid-trot, she came to a halt and began to lightly chew her bottom lip in thought for a moment before she changed direction and trotted toward the library.

“Spike?” She questioned as she entered and looked at the checkout desk, only to not find her draconic assistant there. “Spike!” Twilight shouted and was rewarded by the clattering of falling pans in the kitchen before the irritated, grumbling adolescent appeared.

“Yeah, yeah. I hear you Twilight, keep your horn on.”

“Spike,” she began seriously. “This is serious. I’m going to go meet with Alphas Widepaw and Steelfang, alone.”


Twilight sighed at the clueless expression she was receiving from the young drake. “They’re the leaders of all the Diamond Dogs,” she explained before continuing quickly, though somewhat haltingly, so that Spike’s open-mouthed shock could not interrupt her. “Princess Celestia… doesn’t know… I’ve been talking with them.” She managed to force out.

“Twilight! You can’t go alone!” Spike objected loudly as he rushed the lavender mare and clung to her foreleg like a limpet. “They’ll hurt you!”

Sitting down, Twilight brought her free foreleg around Spike’s back and gently began stroking his scales with her hoof in a reassuring manner. “I’m almost entirely certain they won’t, Spike. The Diamond Dogs that have spoken with me thus far have all said the same thing; I’m under the protection of the Alphas. It’s their version of Diplomatic Immunity.”

“I still don’t trust them,” he mumbled into her chest. “Can’t you just ignore this and let the Princesses take care of this? Dealing with this kind of trouble is their job, not yours.”

Twilight slowly shook her head in the negative as she rested her chin on his scaly head. “I wish I could, but I can’t. They won’t speak with her, none of them will. Right now, I’m the only pony with the ears of both Princess Celestia and the Alphas. Besides, I have a super-important task for my number one assistant.” Smiling, she pulled back just enough to meet his eyes as, across the room, a quill and parchment levitated over to them. After grabbing the items in his claws, Spike looked up almost eagerly at Twilight. “Alright Spike, take a letter. Dear Princess Celestia…”

Standing at the border, Twilight released an explosive gust of air from her nostrils and began to quietly reassure herself. “Okay, I can do this. Every Diamond Dog I’ve spoken to thus far has told me I would be safe in their territory. Not only that, I do have a backup plan.” She took another deep breath. “All I have to do is find a guard who understands enough Equuish to take me to Alpha Widepaw and hope it’s not–” her quiet self-directed pep-talk was abruptly cut off as a maroon blur appeared out from behind a thick pine tree and tackled her, sending both dog and pony somersaulting uncontrollably across the leaf littered forest floor several times before being forcefully stopped by another tree.

“Twilight!” A throaty, feminine voice squealed excitedly as two massive paws scooped up the dazed and dizzy mare into a bear hug. “Divine daughter of the waking moon and setting sun, how my heart lifts to lay eyes upon you once again!”

Plopping her chin on the thickly furred foreleg wrapped around her chest, Twilight groaned and face-hoofed. “Beni…”

The ruby-collared bitch gently released her pseudo-captive with apologetic drab-olive eyes. “Apologies, gentle-mare, for my infantile behaviour. The mere sight of your star-blessed countenance fills my soul with such joy it is nigh irrepressible.”

“It’s alright Beni. Just… don’t pounce on me from out of nowhere anymore, okay? I think you scared a few years off my life.” Her tone was light, obviously joking, but Beni didn’t pick up on it at all if the way her expression morphed into sheer horror was anything to go by.

“No! Tell me you speak false, twilit mare! Our time within these mortal shells is short as it is; to be the one to reduce yours by any means or measurement would mean doom for all Dogs, for our Alpha Moon has joined the First Alphas and you must now be our Voice to the White Alpha.” Beni’s entire being spoke of utter desperation as she lowered her large frame onto the ground as far as it would go.

Throughout the entire impassioned speech, Twilight had taken a few uncertain steps back with wide eyes.

“Wha…? No, Beni, I was kidding. It was a joke. There’s no scientific evidence that a fright can take years off a pony’s lifespan.”

The bitch-guard surged to her paws and pounced on Twilight again. “Oh sparkling star, I dread the mere thought of unintentionally harming you! How my soul soars to know I have done no injury!”

“Beni, I don’t have a lot of time to spare. I need to speak to Alpha Widepaw. She owes me some answers,” Twilight told her, and watched as she turned her head away with a pained expression.

“We… we had best make haste then,” the bitch-guard sighed and her previously delighted expression was replaced with a forced smile before turning and walking deeper into the trees. “As such an intelligent mare, I know you must have many questions. I shall answer all I can. However, I must ask that you resist from querying about… that… until you are with Alpha Widepaw. A subject such as that which pertains to our very existence upon this world is best discussed directly with her.”

Twilight’s expression was one of sad understanding before withdrawing a thick list from her saddlebag. Her next sentence brought forth a genuine smile from Beni though. “Well, it just so happens that my research into Diamond Dogs has proven how little ponies really know about you. So I’ll be focusing more on your culture, history, beliefs–” Beni interrupted her there.

“Oh Dusk-touched, I would be thrilled to be the one to aid in your pursuit of knowledge! The first thing you must know is our name. We, as a whole, are either Gem Dogs or simply Dogs. To refer to a Dog by a rank below them is actually quite an insult so heinous, deaths have occurred by its very inference.” She saw Twilight flinch and continued. “When speaking with one whose name you do not know, you must refer by the gems in their Collar, then gender. Had destiny cast a contemptuous eye upon our first encounter, for you my designation would be ‘Ruby Bitch’ or ‘Ruby Bitch-Guard’.”

The lavender scholar’s eyes lit with comprehension as she hurriedly levitated a quill and inkpot beside the list and began to write. “Fascinating! Now you said the gem types denote rank, how does that work?”

“To understand our Collars, you must first know their origin. An origin which spans the eons to the ending of the Chaos Time…”

As the forest slowly faded into the rocky quarry, Twilight’s quill was racing across her now much longer scroll.

“Thus did the Thief-Tyrant not only Collar us as though we were her pets,” she snarled the word as she reached up her left forepaw behind her head, used her dewclaw to hook under her collar and slid it off her head, leaving it dangling from her paw. “She alone appointed herself Our master, and enchanted these cursed items so we could neither destroy nor leave them behind.” Beni finished and flicked her paw, sending the collar flying. Twilight watched it sail two meters away before it unexpectedly vanished with a soft ‘pop’ and reappeared around Beni’s neck.

Wide eyed with a mixture of shock and curiosity, Twilight asked “Can I take a closer look at your collar?” and received a nonchalant shrug from the bitch as she removed her collar once more. Twilight gripped the ruby studded collar in her telekinesis and closed her eyes in concentration. Beni watched in an awed silence as another layer of aura wrapped around the first on Twilight’s horn, prompting quill and parchment to begin jotting down nonsensical runes and alchemical formulae. The quill paused for a minute as Twilight’s brows furrowed in what may have been confusion, given the way her head tilted ever so slightly.

Slowly, almost hesitantly, the magical aura darkened a few shades. Beni’s nose wrinkled before she sneezed and her expression became one of concern. The concern was not unwarranted as blackness began to ooze and bubble through the previously light magic and sickly green wisps escaped from Twilight’s eyelids.

“Augh! What is this odour offending my nose so?” Beni grunted as her eyes began watering from the stench. “Please stop!” she barked. There was no change in the mare. “Twilight?” she asked again as her eyes darted between her floating collar and the stiff, almost frightened unicorn. With a growl, she lashed her paw out to strike the collar away, only for the ominous magic to retaliate with a sizzling whip that forced Beni to retract her burned paw with a pained yelp. Narrowing her eyes in determination, she moved backwards several steps until the collar vanished and reappeared around her neck, still wreathed in dark flames. Immediately, Beni dropped to the forest floor, writhing and screaming in agony. Twilight, either by the absence of the collar from her grip or the bone-chilling shrieking of Beni coupled with the smell of burning fur and flesh, snapped out of her daze. Blinking, it took but a few heartbeats for Twilight to take in the situation and react to it.

“Beni!” Twilight cried out in shock as she conjured a globe of water and encompassed the still sizzling collar and the seared flesh around it. Beni groaned in relief as she finally stopped thrashing. “I… I’m so sorry! I don’t know what happened! Are you okay? No, of course you’re not okay, what was I thinking?” Continuing to rant, a couple of hairs from Twilight’s ruler-edged mane style sprang up as she began to pace. “Fluttershy could…” she glanced at Beni. “No, that’s a magical burn; she wouldn’t have the proper neutralizing salve. Ponyville General would have the salve and all Equestrian doctors are oath bound to any and all who come seeking aid… if they don’t run away screaming first… but with tensions so high and Beni unable to defend herself… no, bad idea. Think, Twilight, think!” Twilight muttered a second before her face lit up with an apparent epiphany. “The laboratory! Why didn’t I think of it before? My medical kit is fully stocked!” she declared triumphantly as she literally leaped to Beni’s side and lit her horn. Both vanished from the forest with a wink of light.

The laboratory under the library was a truly impressive feat of earth pony design. Roots thicker than a stallion’s neck supported the slightly curved walls of the subterranean chamber, absorbing water from the soil before it could penetrate and damage any valuables within. Currently, it held a wooden table laden with chemistry equipment, vials and beakers filled with slightly luminescent liquids of different colours. On the overhead column of shelves, ordered alphabetically and by size, sat sealed and labelled jars of unknown substances. Across the room sat a large, white cabinet the height and breadth of one of the book cases in the main library upstairs with a bright red cross painted on the doors.

The silence of this barely lit room was rudely interrupted by the crack of Twilight and Beni displacing the still air, immediately followed by retching and the smell of bile. “Sorry, Beni.” Twilight tossed over her shoulder in apology as she trotted to the cabinet, opened it, and withdrew a low, wide jar with her mouth. Beni didn’t respond to the hasty apology, instead her chin plopped down on the hard-packed floor between her spread forelegs as she groaned. Turning around with the jar in her mouth, Twilight walked over to the insensate bitch and gently nudged a large paw with her hoof. There wasn’t even a groan this time, Beni was out cold.

“What an abnormal reaction to a teleport…” Twilight murmured as she examined the ruby bitch guard. When her eyes fell on the neck wound, she winced at the sight of it. “But it’s a fortunate one, given the circumstance; I certainly wouldn’t want to be awake while something that severe was being treated.” Chewing her lower lip, she gave the ruby-studded collar the stink eye. “It didn’t react to being held by magic, only by being examined by it. I should be able to remove it without trouble.” Wrinkling her nose at the lingering smell of burnt flesh hanging in the air, she carefully wrapped her magic around the collar and began separating it from the skin around it while flinching at the sound.

Finally the collar was off without further incident and dropped most unceremoniously on the floor. Just as Twilight dipped her hoof in the cold neutralizing salve, the muscles under Beni’s thick fur twitched as darkly coloured magic began crackling around the neck wound. She watched in fascination as seared muscles and scorched skin started to mend. Her attention was drawn away from the healing wound to Beni’s face by the purple mist leaking from between the closed eyelids. Twilight’s ears flattened as her eyes widened and her pupils shrunk to pinpricks as an obviously terrifying thought occurred to her.

“The teleport…” she breathed and started stepping backwards, her eyes fixed on the face of the now rousing bitch. “I was in such a panic, I didn’t compensate for the magical nature of the collar and isolate it.” Beni lurched unsteadily to her paws, head dangling between her braced forelegs and her eyes blocked from view. “All that strange magic has been dumped into her.” The whisper was barely there, the decibel level being on the level of Fluttershy’s voice at her most timid.

It was loud enough.

Upright maroon ears oriented on her location in less than a heartbeat as the head they were attached to snapped up. All signs of the exuberant, gentle, friendly bitch were lost in the acid green sclera and glowing red irises. Beni had been replaced by an unrecognisable, snarling monster with eyes full of hate and insatiable hunger.

The beast previously known as Beni lunged.

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