Herd Life

Celestia is a growing filly within the herd, as she and many ponies struggle to just survive in their primitive times. Upheaval is soon to come, as new ideas clash with the old, when Celestia's parents join together in their struggle to move ponies into a new and unknown future, amid the dawning of the pony nation.
Contains: Stallion on Mare mating and impregnation. With lovemaking and experimentation later.
Online reading by: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9RpH3CFcO8&feature=youtu.be
I do not claim ownership of the cover art. It is publicly posted art. Artist for Celestia: alasou


30. Chapter 30

Author's Note:

I struggled on this chapter. It required me to work with my weakness a lot more than normal. My weakness is using heavy dialogue to move the plot along instead of action. I had to dump things and re-write so many parts I think I wrote two chapters instead of one. There are a couple of spots that have a funny little jump because of this so please forgive me. Heavy dialogue is hard for me to do and takes forever.

Ash had no idea where he was. Everywhere he looked, all he saw was an endless, star-filled mist that stretched on for what seemed forever. Celestia had told him once of a dream she had of a place much like this. A place where she spoke with a beautiful, silvery mare who had been kind to her. Choosing a direction at random, Ash began to walk.

Thinking back, Ash tried to remember what had brought him here. He remembered some ponies running out of the trees in the valley below while being chased by something. Then later, he remembered running away from the camp to go down into the valley. After that, everything became a muddled blur of half remembered images.

A sound suddenly caught his attention. Pausing, Ash turned his head as he sought out what the source could be. It reminded him of ice crystals as they tinkled against one another when the wind blew through the trees during winter. Hearing the sound again, Ash headed toward it.

Ahead of him, something became visible through the misty void. At first, it was hard to make out, but as he drew closer, he was able to see that it was a tree. Strange, finding a tree growing here. Approaching it, he noticed that the tree was made entirely of crystal! Its trunk, branches, and its leaves glittered in the colorful starlight.

Walking up to it, Ash set his hoof to the trunk and felt it grow warm under his touch. It began to glow with a beautifully soft radiance under his hoof.

"Hello," a clear voice suddenly greeted him from behind.

Jumping in startlement, Ash spun himself around and found a soft-lavender filly with long, wavy, lilac colored mane and tail, standing just behind him.

She let out a musical giggle at his startled reaction, then stepped closer and leaned in to look him over. "Who are you? I've never seen you here before."

Leaning back as their noses almost touched, Ash blinked at her. "I, ah... I'm Ash. Who are you?"

The filly sat back and smiled at him. "I'm Cherished Ties. Do you want to play? My sister has been too busy to play with me much anymore, and I’m bored." She turned and began happily skipping around the crystal tree, disappearing behind it.

"I'm lost. Do you know where I am?"Ash asked as leaned around to look at the backside of the tree.

"Of course I do, silly!" Cherished said from right behind him. Ash spun around to look at her, surprised that she had somehow gotten behind him without his seeing. Cherished Ties leaned in and touched her hoof to his nose. "You're right here," she answered with a giggle.

Ash shook his head. "But I don't know where here is." Suddenly, he noticed that Cherished wasn't there anymore. Turning himself about, he searched for where she had gone.

"How do you not know that you are under me!?" her voice said from above him. Looking up, he saw that she was just above him, hanging down from a branch by her hind legs. Reaching out, she bopped his nose again and giggled.

How did she keep doing that? Ash wondered as he watched her climb up onto the branch and skip along it. "Please just tell me where this place is."

Cherished skipped out from behind the crystal tree's trunk and stopped just before him. "This place is everywhere, silly. It's above," she hopped into the air, "it's below," she flopped down to her belly, "it's to the side," she rolled over, "it's in front," she stood and bopped his nose again, "and it's behind," she finished by pulling his tail, somehow getting behind him again, without his notice.

Ash was thoroughly confused by her answer. How could this place be everywhere? "I don't understand. Why won’t you just answer me straight?"

"I'm tired of these boring questions. Let’s play, now!" Turning, Cherished ran to the shore of a lake that was suddenly there, and picked up a stone, skipping it across the water. Turning back, she laughed as she waved for him to join to her.

Gazing around, Ash saw that the crystal tree was now sitting in a grassy field next to a small lake. Swans and ducks paddled slowly along its surface as dragonflies buzzed around to land on the blooming water lilies. The sun was high above them, and he didn't see any mountains anywhere around.

"Where are we?" Ash asked. He was sure that he had been in the mountains before arriving in the strange mist.

Cherished gave him an angry scowl. "Why are you always asking that silly question?! We are here!" she said with a firm stomp of her hoof to emphasize her point.

Picking up another stone, Cherished skipped it across the water. "My best is six times. How many can you do?" she asked, her smile returning.

Ash was rather good at skipping stones in the river back home. His best count was ten. Figuring that he wasn’t going to get much more in the way of answers from Cherished unless he played with her, Ash picked up a stone. Winding his hoof back, Ash tossed it out onto the water and got three skips before it vanished under the water.

Cherished giggled and snatched up another stone and tossed it out after his, managing four skips, beating his three. Grinning, Ash took up another stone and took up his throwing stance as he accepted her challenge.

Ash’s worry and confusion slowly vanished as he continued to play with Cherished. The filly was full of boundless energy. When she grew bored of skipping stones, Cherished challenged Ash to a race around the field next to the lake. After that, they hunted frogs in the reeds and lilies along the shoreline. When Ash managed to catch a large bullfrog, he brought it to Cherished to show her and found that she had caught a turtle. Releasing the two back into the lake, they watched as the two swam off together.

Suddenly, a blast of cold wind ruffled his mane, and Ash shivered. "What the?" Turning, he found that he was standing hock deep in snow. Blinking in surprise, Ash turned and looked all about and saw that the lake and trees were no longer there, but instead, a thick field of snow covered the land all about them.

Giggling, Cherished began scooping snow into a pile.

"What happened to the lake?" Ash asked.

"Come on, let's make snowponies," Cherished said, patting snow into place on her pile. "How about you make one right here next to mine! They can be friends, just like us!"

Ash glanced around, whatever was happening seemed impossible. Somehow, they were traveling around without actually moving. He would have been sure that this was just all a dream he was having, but for the fact that he could feel the cold bite of the winter air with every breath he took, convinced him that this was somehow real.

Perhaps there was a way she could take him back to Papa. His memories of just before he arrived here was still fuzzy, but he was starting to remember some things that had him worried.

"Cherished?" Ash said. "I want to go back to my papa. Can you take me to him?"

"But I thought we were having fun!" Cherished said with a hurt look. "Why do you want to leave!? I thought we were friends."

"I'm sorry, but I need to find my papa. I think something bad happened and I’m worried he may be hurt." There was an image he couldn't shake of Dark laying on the ground with something massive standing just over him.

Cherish's face softened. "You really care for him a lot. I can tell," she said. "I can see why my sister approves of you so much."

Ash was confused. Hardly anything she said made any sense to him. “What do you mean?”

Instead of answering, Cherished stepped closer and set her hoof to his chest. Ash gasped when he felt a warmth spread out from her touch. Suddenly, like a shadow being cleared from his memory, he remembered everything that happened with the hydra. He remembered the power of his love and desire to protect Dark raging through his body like a wild thunderstorm. The hydra stood no chance against him.

"Cherished, you little thief!" An infuriated voice suddenly shouted out. “How dare you steal him!”

The snow that surrounded them suddenly vanished, replaced by the star-filled mist once again. A beautiful, silvery mare with a vibrant, multi-color mane and tail approached, bearing a stormy look. Her angry eyes bore down onto Cherished, who gave a frightened little yelp and disappeared behind the crystal tree.

Letting out a sigh, the mare turned to look down at Ash as her eyes softened. "I apologize for my little sister. She can be a bit of a hoof-full sometimes."

There was something familiar about the silvery mare. Ash remembered seeing her before, but he couldn't place where.

The mare shot a hard look at her sister, who was peeking around the crystal tree at them. "She does tend to take things a little too far as well."

“Please don’t be mad at her,” Ash said, stepping between Wellspring and Cherished, who was sticking her tongue out at her sister from around the trunk. “She only wanted to play with me.”

"It’s her nature to want to make friends, Wellspring," a golden-colored stallion said, stepping out of the star-filled mist. "You know that. You can’t blame her for being curious."

"But it's still too early for her to get involved, Age," Wellspring said, turning to the stallion. "If our enemy discovers her true power before she has all six of her elemental bearers, she’ll be in even more danger!"

“That is why the colt is here,” the stallion said, looking down at Ash. “He is the bearer of the Element of Protection after all.”

“But he is still much too young,” Wellspring complained, looking down at the colt.

“He has taken his first steps into harnessing the magic of his element,” Age pointed out. “It is time he starts to learn what his task is.”

The mare looked torn, and her gaze settled onto Ash with a deep sadness set to them. Again, Ash was struck by how familiar she was. He was positive he had met her before.

Stepping over to him, a pair of colorful wings appeared on Wellsprings sides, and a horn was now perched on her forehead. Reaching her wing down, Wellspring gently covered Ash's back. "Come with me, my brave little colt. There are things that you need to learn to prepare yourself."

Ash allowed her to guide him out into the misty void. More crystal trees began to appear out of the mist around them as they walked, each one glittering with a different colorful hue from the next. All of them were unique and beautiful beyond compare.

“Where are we?” Ash asked, looking around.

"This is the Forest of Harmony," Wellspring said, gesturing out with her wing to the glittering grove that now surrounded them.

A strange rumbling boom suddenly caught his attention. Turning, he looked out and saw part of the star-filled mist open up before him to reveal great, seething cloud of darkness, looming unimaginably far off in the distance. It rolled and swirled about as great forks of lightning flashed ceaselessly all throughout its dark writhing mass. The sight of it sent a cold wave of terror through his body.

Gritting his teeth, Ash forced himself to step a few paces closer to the violent storm and stared out at it defiantly. He didn’t know how, but he knew that there was a dark will behind that evil storm. An evil that was filled with hate and absolute madness.

His heart was hammering in his chest and his blood began to burn hot. Whatever that thing was, he knew it wanted to hurt everypony he loved. It hungered to rip and tear their bodies apart and crush their bones to dust. To taste their pain on its tongue, and savor their endless screams. Papa, Mama, Luna, Celestia, all the ponies of his herd, and all the living things in the entire world from the smallest insect to the largest monster. It wanted to destroy them all. Utterly and completely. Forever.

The power he had felt before when he faced the hydra suddenly roared through his body. Scuffing his hoof across the ground, Ash lifted his head up high and whinnied a challenge to the storm of raging insanity.

Suddenly the golden colored stallion stepped before him and blocked his way. “Peace, young colt and stay your hoof. The time is not right to face this evil yet.”

Wellspring stepped forward and waved her wing to close the mist back together, before draping it back over Ash to comforted the quivering colt.

“What was that?” Ash asked.  

“An evil that is older than this world,” Wellspring answered.

“I commend you for facing it so bravely,” Age added. “Though, I was bit surprised when I saw you were about to attack it.”

“That things wants to hurt the world and all the ponies I love.” Ash said. “I won’t ever let that happen!” Dashing forward towards the mist, Ash stopped and looked out. “You hear that! I’m not afraid of you! I will stand in your way and I will do everything I can to stop you from hurting the ponies I love! I make this oath on it!”

On his flanks, a softly-colored mist, filled with a vast host of stars of every imaginable color appeared. Sitting prominently in the center, a single golden star with four long points radiating out, with four additional stubby points angling out of the center.

As if in answer to the colt’s defiant declaration, a deep rumble suddenly came out of the mist and rustled the branches on all the crystal trees, causing them to tinkle loudly.

Wellspring and Age glanced at each other in startlement.

“I told you that that stallion was going to be a bad influence on him.” Age said.

“Oh, hush,” Wellspring said, glancing back to the colt with a smile.










Starless Night couldn’t figure out these dirt ponies at all. When she had woken up, she had found that she was laying on some kind of strange woven-grass bedding that kept her out of the dirt. Nearby, food set out in a strange thing made of tightly woven thin branches, and a gourd sat next to it filled with fresh clear water. Looking the food over, she was amazed to see that it was free of mold and rot, and when she tasted it, she couldn’t believe how fresh it was! Before she knew it, she had scarfed it all down in a matter of moments, and was saddened to see the woven container was empty.

The dirt ponies had taken her up, and placed her into a large sheltered cavity that had been created by massive boulders that had tumbled together in an old landslide. Cave-like pathways wove through the boulders all over, connecting various chambers to each other. The two lowblood unicorns that had been following her up the valley, were also placed into the same chamber as her, both of whom, she noticed had also been given grass woven bedding to lay on as well as food to eat. They had even wrapped the low blood mare’s broken leg in something to keep it immobile.

A safe place to rest, good food to eat, fresh water, and their injuries had been cared for. Why were they being so kind to them? They were just dirt ponies. Hardly more than animals.

“I’m happy to see you’re awake at last,” a granite-grey mare said, limping into their chamber with a smile.

Starless noticed that the mare’s smile actually reached her eyes, and she showed no cruelty or malice in them, instead there was only kindness and openness in her gaze as she smiled down at her.

“My name is Pebble Stream,” the mare greeted them. “I came to see if there was anything you needed.”

Needed? She was offering to do more for her? No pony could be this nice for nothing. These dirt ponies must want something from her. Why else would they be doing this? “No. My needs have been met,” she said with a shake of her head.

“Oh, well, how about you two?” she asked, turning to two lowbloods, who mutely shook their heads to her. “Very well, then. If you change your minds, just let me know.”

The mare turned to go, but Starless was curious about something, or rather she was curious about somepony in particular. “Excuse me. That stallion who faced the hydra so bravely. Dark Storm. Can you tell me about him?”

The mare paused to turn back to her. “Dark Storm? Well, he’s one of the greatest stallions of our herd. He inspired us to become more than we were and learn our true strength as Earth Ponies.”

“Earth Ponies?” Starless asked. She had never heard the dirt ponies being called that before.

“That’s what we are,” Pebble replied with a proud lift of her head. “We are Earth Ponies.”

“I see,” Starless said thoughtfully. Learn their true strength as dirt ponies? What did that mean?

“I like that thing you have on your neck,” Pebble said, looking down at the Unicorn’s neck. “What is it?”

Starless reached her hoof up to touch the object hanging from around her neck. “This?” she asked. Sitting, wrapped around her neck was a thin golden ring, with a green stone set at the base of her throat. “Its called a necklace. Some of the Casters who have talents working with metal fashion pretty things to wear using a golden metal that can be found in our streams.”

“Casters?” Pebble asked curiously. “What are Casters?”

Starless Night smiled and drew herself up. “I’m a Caster. I just became one just this spring. Casters are Unicorns that show greater talents for magic than the lower bloods. We go through many years of hard training to become a Caster. And if we impress the highbloods with our skills and power, some of them may offer their stallions breed with us, so we can have strong foals of our own.”

Pebble looked confused. “What do you mean by allowing their stallions to breed?”

Just then, an orange mare stepped in, carrying a long stick with some kind of sharp stone stuck to the end, in the crook of her leg. Starless remembered seeing ponies carrying the same long sticks when they saved her from the hydra. Dark Storm and that other impressively large stallion used them to stab the hydra.

“The Herd Father would like to speak with them now,” the orange mare said.

A dark blue stallion entered and helped to lift the injured mare onto his back. Walking along with Pebble Stream, Starless couldn’t help but notice her limp, and how her leg looked a bit swollen.

“Are you wondering about my leg?” Pebble asked suddenly, noticing Starless Night’s curious glance. “I was bitten by a Winged Serpent when we wandered over their nest.”

Starless gave a start and shot a surprised look at the mare, “you were bitten by an Ophies Pteretoi!? How did you survive!?”

Pebble gave her a confused look. “If that means Winged Serpent, then the answer would be I almost didn’t. Our tracker knew of a curative to use against snake venom, and they just managed to save me. My leg still hurts, but Happy thinks it will get better over time.”

“Interesting,” Starless said thoughtfully. “I would like to see this tracker and learn this secret as well. Those pests have been a bane to our foraging teams.”

Winding their way through the web of confusing channels between the massive boulders, they arrived at an unusually tall chamber made of leaning quartz blocks that sparkled with the slanting sunlight that shone through the gaps in the stones. Stepping in, Starless saw a turquoise mare standing in the center, waiting for them. Off to the side, Dark Storm sat next to a charcoal brown colt, who lay sleeping on woven-grass bedding.

Starless gazed settled onto the sleeping colt and noticed that he was the same one as from the night before. Was it just a dream? she wondered.The colt looked like a completely normal, average colt. How could he have done what she thought she remembered him doing to that hydra? Could he be the one that Matriarch Astral is looking for?

Two days prior, Matriarch Astral gathered all the senior and junior Casters together for something important. Waiting for her to start, Starless noticed that she was now wearing a silver necklace with a strange blood red gem set to her throat. The Matriarch had always disdained necklaces before, and Starless wondered why she would start to wear one now.

Once she was ready, the Matriarch told them of a new rising danger she wanted them to find: a new powerful magic that needed to be brought under their control. During the course of their normal tasks, if they should ever come across an unusual magic, they are to immediately return and report it straight to her without delay. After that, Matriarch Astral hoof-picked ten of her most senior and skilled Casters for a special task she wanted them to do, and took them away somewhere secret to discuss it with them. It all struck her as being all very strange.

Was this colt the magic she was supposed to look out for? She couldn’t see how, he was just a simple dirt pony. Every unicorn knew that they had no magic.

Dark Storm didn’t look up as they entered. Sitting closely next to the colt, he continued to gaze down at him with worry etched on his face. Lifting his hoof, he brushed an errant strand of mane out of the colt’s face as he fussed over him.

The dark-blue stallion that carried the injured lowblood gently lowered her down onto another woven-grass matting that was set out on the ground and the other low blood was given a spot next to her. Why would they show such kindness to them? They were just common lowbloods.

Looking at the turquoise mare standing before them, Starless saw her resemblance to Dark Storm. She had the same warm deep blue eyes, and strong cheeks as him. Stepping up to her, Starless bent a hoof and bowed her head down. She didn’t bow as much as she would have to a highblood, of course, but she did bow down enough to show respect.

“Greetings, Matriarch. I am Caster Starless Night,” she said in greeting. “I thank you for the aid your stallions have given in stopping the hydra. They showed great courage in facing such a terrible and fearsome beast.”

The mare blinked at her with a oddly surprised look. “Matriarch? My stallions? What do you mean by that?” she asked.

Shooting a quick glance over to Dark, Starless looked back to the mare. “Am I mistaken? I saw the resemblance. Are you not kin to the mighty Dark?”

“I’m his sister, yes,” the mare answered. “My name is Mirage Shimmer.”

“You would be his matriarch then, right?” Starless continued. “You dirt… err.. Earth Ponies are remarkably free with your stallions.We keep ours under proper control.”

“What does that supposed to mean?” the orange mare Pebble had called Mustard, suddenly asked.

“Every mare knows that stallions are simple creatures that are driven by instincts and carnal needs,” Starless explained. “We can’t leave such wild beasts left uncontrolled. No mare would be safe! So when a colt grows into the right age, he’s put into breeding stables to keep him from causing anything unfortunate.”

“That’s horrendous!” Mustard said in outrage. “How can you do that to your stallions!?”

“If we didn’t, there would be no control over bloodlines! High blood stallions would breed with low blood mares,  and low blood stallions would breed high blood mares, filling them with their dirty brood. Completely outrageous!”

“Stallions aren't monsters!” Mustard growled back angrily “They shouldn’t be treated that way!”

“Mustard, please,” the dark blue stallion said in a hushed tone, touching a hoof to the young mare’s shoulder. “You’re being an idiot.”

“I am not!” Mustard snapped back.

“Morning,” Mirage cut in evenly. ”I heard that the young foals were going to be taken for a bit of play in the sun. Why don’t you take Mustard out and watch over them?”

When it looked like Mustard was about to argue, Dark suddenly spoke up. “Yes. That’s a good idea.” Standing, Dark approached them. “Go and play with the little foals. It’ll help cool your temper.”

Mustard gaped at him for a moment before she gave in and allowed Morning to lead her away. Starless was amazed, a mare was obeying a stallion!?

Turning to Starless, Dark focused his attention onto her. Starless felt her cheeks suddenly flushed as she met his deep blue eyes. There was something about his gaze that made her heart quicken in her chest.

“My apologies. Please have a seat and make yourself comfortable.” Dark said, gesturing for her to take a grass-mat that Pebble had just set out for her.

Starless felt a little strange allowing a stallion to direct her, but the way he spoke to her with his warm strong voice made it hard to resist. Seating herself, Dark sat down on another grass-mat to face her.

“So, let's begin with proper introductions,” Dark said looking the three over. “My name is Dark Storm, Herd Father to the Earth Ponies and mate to Meadowlark, the Herd Mother. I, and the twenty ponies with me are currently helping out a fellow tribe in need.”

“I am Starless Night. The two lowbloods behind me are Grand Vista, and Tranquil Charm,” Starless introduced. “We’re part of a foraging team that was out searching for food when we came to the small lake at the bottom of this valley. Pausing there to rest and drink, we were surprised by the hydra when it attacked us out of the lake. Most of the foraging team scattered and ran, but I foolishly tried to fight it,” Starless said with a shake of her head. “All of my spells had little if any effect on it. When it snapped at me, Grande Vista knocked me to the side and took a glancing hit that broke her leg. I used a dazzle spell to momentarily blind the hydra so Tranquil Charm could collect her injured friend and we made our escape up the valley. The hydra recovered quickly and pursued us.”

“What a harrowing tale,” Mirage said.

“Indeed,” Dark said thoughtfully. “It appears that we have the answer to what was scaring the animals around that lake.”

Pebble quietly slipped in and set small baskets of something just before Vista, and Charm, then she placed another one before Starless.

Using her magic, Starless levitated up what looked like a piece of shriveled apple. It appeared that even these dirt ponies couldn’t find good food, she thought. Starless was still hungry so she tossed it into her mouth and quickly chewed. She felt a sudden surprise at how good it tasted. It was dry and crunchy but also pleasantly flavorful. More and more these dirt ponies were surprising her.

“Starless Night,” Dark said, bringing her attention back to him. “Putting aside the current subject for a moment, I would like to discuss a matter that has been very disturbing to hear. Recently, we have heard stories from the pegasi that the unicorns have been capturing them. Is this true?”

Starless nearly choked on her treat, her eyes snapping to Dark. The dirt ponies were talking to the pegasi!? When did this start!? Starlight noticed that the warmth had left Dark’s eyes as he waited for her answer.“We ah… only wanted to talk to them. They were let go without any harm being done!”

“The Unicorns only wanted to talk to them,” Dark repeated back with a thoughtful look. “As I understand it from the Pegasi’s telling, they were terrorised and threatened by the Unicorns.”

Dark didn’t raise his voice nor did he move any closer to Starless, but she still felt him somehow looming over her. Without thinking about it, Starless summoned her magic to her horn as she readied to defend herself from the stallion. Dark’s gaze lingered for a moment on her horn as it shone with her magical aurora.

“I take it from your reaction that the Pegasi’s account is true,” Dark said meeting her eyes. He was a full head taller than she was, and his eyes gazed steadily into hers without fear. This was a stallion who could not be intimidated.

“Our methods may seem a bit harsh, but it's necessary for the greater good!” Starless exclaimed hurriedly. “Something killed many of the fruit trees that grew in our forest and we’re running out of food! Using magic greatly taxes our energy and grass is not enough. We need richer foods to sustain us and our magic. If our magic fails, we can’t keep the sun and moon in their cycle!”

Starless shifted awkwardly as Dark sat there silently considering her, his eyes unreadable. Starless felt strange. She never had a stallion looking at her like this. She had only been in the stables a few times to help settle disputes over breeding agreements and all the stallions she saw there were properly submissive to the mares.

“I can understand the desperation that that can cause,” Dark finally said, breaking the long silence, “but threatening others to do your work is still not right. Did you even try offering to trade with the Pegasi for food? I am sure that there are many services you could do for them.”

Starless couldn’t help but scowl at the thought of treating the pegasi as equals. “Our dealings with the pegasi have always been troublesome. They are flighty little thieves that would steal all the fruits out of our trees whenever they had a chance. We’ve been zapping and chasing them out of our forest for centuries! They are nothing but pests!”

Darks gaze hardened. “I see,” he said thoughtfully. “And how do the Unicorns view us?”

Starless gaped at him in surprise. Her mind racing with some kind of suitable answer that wouldn’t anger the stallion.

“It seems the manticore’s got your tongue,” Dark said. “What about you two? Grand Vista, and Tranquil Charm was it? Would you two like to answer my question?”

The two mares who, up to that point, had been happy sitting to the side and quietly watching, now suddenly found Dark looking right at them as he waited for them to answer.

It was the older mare, Vista, who managed to speak. “We ah… we’ve always been taught that dirt ponies were just a bunch of dirty grass-eaters that weren’t much better than simple animals”

Starless felt her heart leap up to her throat, and she shut her eyes in mortification. There will be no getting out of this! Dark was going to call for those stallions she saw outside to come and start jabbing their sharp sticks into them! Or worse yet, to be forcefully taken by him, over and over again, filling her with his foals as he uses her as his broodmare. Oddly, the second part didn’t seem that horrible of a thought to her.

“Thank you,” Dark said, his voice was oddly gentle. “I appreciate your honesty.”

Letting out a breath, Starless sagged in her seat in relief. “You're… not angry?”

Dark shook his head. “No. I’m just disappointed.” Dark fell silent as his face suddenly became thoughtful. A funny smile started to come to his lips as he looked back up at Starless. “It has come to me that there is an intriguing opportunity here.”

“An opportunity? What opportunity is that?” Starless asked hesitantly. There was something about the way the stallion was looking at her that made her feel uneasy.

“Oh, we don’t need to get into that right now.” Dark said with a flick of his hoof. “What is important for you to know right now, is that you are all now my prisoners.”

The chamber was dead silent. Mirage was staring at her brother like he had just turned into some kind of monster, while Starless wondered what it would feel like to have those sharp sticks poked into her.

Just then a dirty-green mare stepped into the chamber. “Excuse me for interrupting, but I thought you would want to know.”

Dark turned to look at the mare. “What is it, Mosswood?”

“Sky and Flutter Fly just brought over a mare who is asking to see Mirage. She says that she is her mother.” Pausing she met Dark’s eyes. “We haven't told her that you’re here yet.”

“Pebble, would you please take our prisoners back to their chamber and bring them some more food. Their ribs are showing entirely too much for my liking. Mosswood, would you please help Pebble carry Vista back?” Standing up, Dark turned his attention to Starless. “If you don’t try to escape, I won’t have to hunt you down and poke holes in you. There’s no way you can elude our tracker if you try. We’ll easily be able to run you down. Do you understand?”

Starless quickly nodded, positive that he was telling her the truth. “I promise we won’t try to leave.”

Dark smiled warmly at her. “Good. Then enjoy your time with us.”

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