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Story Thread: To Banish the Darkness

OCisbestungulate

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If I understand correctly, the mods have given the go-ahead for threads like this to be put into this section. Thus I shall break the Ice.

Summery: Some whisper that a dark force, too vile to speak of, has begun to invade Foenum. In the shadows it lurks, and ungulates have begun vanishing. Tianhuo, a rising star in the Imperial Army, has set out to discover the root of these dissaprences, and to put a rest to it once and for all.

Genre: Action/Adventure

Characters (to be updated as needed): Tianhuo, Pom, and most likely an OC or two (as well as others, but that would be spoilers :p ).

I will be posting chapters here as I complete them. At the time of writing this, I have no idea how long this will be or how frequently I will update. Hopefully, I with some decent frequency.
 
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OCisbestungulate

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Chapter One
To Hear the Darkness


Tianhuo dug impatiently at the stone ground. She, and two other officers, had better things to do then to sit in a small office, waiting for their commander to arrive. She snorted a little and her ear twitched in irritation as what felt like hours ticked by.

“What's taking her so long!?” one of the other officers complained.

“Be patient!” Tianhuo nearly shouted, causing him to straighten up.

“Yes Sir!” the officer saluted, making Tianhuo grin slightly.

You see, she was young. Not quite the youngest officer in the army, but younger then most. She was, however, most certainly the youngest officer to hold her rank. A fact that she knew mildly irritated the others; particularly these two.

The door swung open and slammed against the wall. Inside the door-frame stood a rather small Longma clad in royal armor. Her name was Sun Tzao, and she was the Empress' righthoof. As she entered, a small giggle came from one of the other officers. You see, some of the more foolish troops felt the need to discuss her somewhat diminutive stature behind her back. Unfortunately for them, she had many friends in the army. There was a reason that most of them were still grunts.

"Something funny, Officer Zhou?" she asked as she narrowed her eyes at him.

"No Sir!" he saluted.

"Good." she glanced at the other two. “Orders have changed.” she stated as she crossed the room to a short table that sat in the corner. She slammed a scroll on it as she opened her mouth: “There will be no morning border patrols for you three. A caravan from The Prairie heading to the capitol was attacked last night.”

“What?!” came the collective cries of all three.

“Attacked? By what? Who'd attack a caravan? Or a caravan of cattlekind for that matter?” Zhou asked in disbelief.

“If I knew, I would have told you already!” she snorted.

“So are we going to investigate this?” The other officer asked.

“What you are going to do is be quiet until I've had a chance to finish talking.” she glared at the offender, who shrank a little under her gaze. “Anything else?” she glared at Zhou as well, who shook his head vigorously. “Alright then. Orders are the following: The Cattlekind have requested that we provide an escort for another caravan that's headed to the capital. They've also requested that we investigate the Cattlekind that went missing. In addition to this, we've also been asked by the sheep of The Meadow to provide protection for the town of Baaaah, the hovel of Baaaah, the great Baaaah road, and finally another caravan that may or may not or may leave the city of Baaaah, we'll know once they've decided. On top of that-”

“Excuse me, General.” Tianhuo interrupted. “But our forces are not big enough to handle all of these requests at once.”

“I know this Commander Tianhuo. But the fact is that we've sworn ourselves as the protectors of Fœnum, and by the flame, we're gonna do it!” She stomped a hoof onto the ground and her mane flared wildly, filling the room with blinding light and nearly scorched the ceiling. There was a reason many of the rooms in the barracks were made of stone. She let out a sigh as she collected herself. “That's why I called you three here. To give each of you orders. T-”

“Sir, I want to investigate the attack, Sir!” Tianhuo stood straight and saluted, catching the other two officers by surprise.

The general looked her up and down, and raised an eyebrow. “You do realize that you'd have to do it alone, right? We don't have anyone available that we can send with you.”

“Sir! I understand that, Sir! And, to be honest, Sir, I would have requested that anyway, Sir!”

The general shook her head. “You may have risen through the ranks quickly Commander. But this is a task I want someone more senior to handle.”

“Sir! Let me try! It will give me a good chance to prove myself, Sir!” Tianhuo's mane flared as she saluted all the harder.

“Not alone you're not. To be frank, that investigation is going to take the back burner. We have our hooves too full to deal with that mess right now.” General Tzao shook her head sadly.

“But Sir!” Tianhuo objected.

“That's an ORDER Commander! Now stand down!” The general shouted. Tianhuo faltered for a moment, then lowered her hoof and took a half step back. “Sorry about that. Normally, I'd actually agree with you. Frankly, I like your style. There's a reason I asked our Empress if you could be stationed under me. That said, I'm afraid I simply can't let you go alone. So, your orders are the following: You three are to take a squad each and head to The Meadow. There, you are to figure how to best help the sheep with what few forces we can spare. You are to be there by nightfall. Dismissed!” She stomped a hoof on the ground, and the other three saluted her then filed out.

Well, not Tianhuo.

“Yes, commander?” The general asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Sir! If I were to find someone who would be willing to go with me, could I investigate the attack, Sir?” Tianhuo asked, trying hard to mask her excitement.

“Officially, no.” The general shook her head once more, then cracked a small smile. “But... if you should somehow find someone, and then you should somehow end up at the scene of the attack, well, I mean, I can't do much about that, now can I?” she winked.

Tianhuo smiled back. Well, okay, it was more like a large ear to ear grin. She then saluted harder then ever before. “No Sir! I guess not, Sir!” she nearly shouted.

“Alright Commander. You'd better get going, or else the other two are going to pick all of the good solders first.” she waved her hoof towards the door. Tianhuo gave a final salute, and eagerly ran out of the small room. After a moment, the general closed the door, and turned to the scroll. It lit with a dark flame and the surface of it filled with darkness and two eyes appeared in the void.

“Are you sure you still wish to serve your Empress? The time will come when that one will replace you. I can feel it in her.” the dark voice said.

“I have sworn to serve her until my dying breath. So, yeah, I do.” The general nodded, her many years suddenly weighing on her. Granted, she normally wasn't bothered by her age, but more and more lately she'd been feeling more and more tired. “Besides. Of all the Longma in the army, she's the one I want to replace me.”

“But your Empress will cast you aside, leave you for dead. Abandon you like the frail horse you ar-”

“Are you here to speak with me about something important, or are you hear to taunt me?” she snapped at it.

“Not feeling patient are we? Very well. I wish to tell you that all is in readiness. My kin have been sent. And now I can return and report that you have been successful.” the voice hissed.

“If anything happened to those cattlekind, so help me...” she said, her voice dangerously low, and a her fire began to burn with a low and intense heat.

“It will be no worse then what will happen to your dear rising star...” it hissed back, before emitting a low laugh.

The General slammed her hoof onto it, silencing it and causing the darkness on the scroll to suddenly disappear. She then let out an angry snort, then another sigh. “I really hope this wasn't all a big mistake.”
 
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Feanor

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Oooh, interesting! I like the intrigue at the end! Something tells me I know what that scroll is about, haha!

Look forward to more!
 

OCisbestungulate

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This took much longer to get out then I had hoped for. Never-the-less, here is chapter two.



Chapter Two
To Battle The Darkness
Part One


“It doesn’t make any sense.” Zhou snorted a bit of flame from his nostrils. It brought a bit of warmth to his mildly cold snout. They had decided to fly above the clouds as they crossed over a large stretch of grasslands.

“What doesn’t?” the other officer asked.

“Think about it. A cattlekind caravan gets attacked, and we’re sent to help the sheep? Not only that, but we’re told to take three troops each? Doesn’t that strike you as just a little, I don’t know, strange? I mean, our army is already spread thin. I don’t see how we can afford to have twelve of us go do something so unimportant.” He shook his head and nearly spat. He looked back behind him at the nine troops, all flying in formation behind the three of them, who flew in a line with Tianhuo in the center. “I mean, we were even told to take seasoned troops. What in Foenum are they expecting to happen?”

“An ambush perhaps?” the other asked.

“How about you two stop whining and shut your mouths?” Tianhuo snapped. The other two looked at her with angry glances but said nothing. She regretted having snapped at them like that. The lessons of her youth were slow in coming, and the fact that her path through the ranks had been paved with praise did little to help her patience. She opened her mouth to apologize, but couldn’t quite do it. No. She was the commanding officer here. She had nothing to apologize for.

She had to admit, they had a point. This was rather strange. The Meadow had never been known to be a dangerous place, let alone needed to be guarded. In fact, if the reports were to be believed, they had their own guardians. Apparently those small dogs they keep around are enough to do the job just fine. So why would they need a detachment of Longma to help them?

Not to mention that she really wanted to investigate that attack. She grinned again as the words of the general came to her. Perhaps that’s part of the reason they had been sent to The Meadow. Perhaps the general knew that she would want to take a look anyway, and sent more troops than was needed so that she could take a small group and investigate.

“What are you smiling about?” the other officer asked grumpily.

Tianhuo looked at him with mild surprise. “What?

“I saw that grin. What do you know that we don’t?” he asked, narrowing his eyes.

Tianhuo shook her head. “I know everything you know.”

“Yeah right. I saw you hang back. What did the general say to you?” he accused.

“Nothing important.” Tianhuo insisted.

“Really? If that’s true, then why not tell us?” he sneered.

“Stand down officer. This is none of your business.” Tianhuo ordered.

“Oh? Are you sure about that?” Zhou asked, inching closer to her. “If it’s so unimportant, why don’t you just tell us?”

“Officer Zhou, Stand Down. This is your only warning.” Tianhuo said dangerously. “I will not hesitate to use force if you make me.”

The other officer also inched closer. “Right in front of the troops? I don’t think-” he stopped mid-sentence as she glared at him.

“Do you two have an issue with me? Well, do you?” she looked between the two of them.

“Not at all.” Zhou turned his head in clear disgust.

“And you? What about you?” Tianhuo asked the other.

He blinked a few times, then moved away. “No sir.” He said quietly.

She looked over at Zhou. He refused to make eye contact with her, and refused to change his distance. Tianhuo could feel the hostility pouring out of him. “Zhou, back off.”

“Say please.” His jaw line set.

“What did you just say?” Tianhuo asked, somewhat surprised.

“You heard what I said quite clearly commander. But since you seem to be suddenly deaf, I’ll repeat it just for you.” He then looked at her. “Say. Please.” He said slowly, and loudly.

The other officer flew next to him, “Zhou, come on, give it a re-“

Zhou smacked him in directly in the mouth. “She needs to be taught to respect others. And this is the perfect time to do it!” he nearly shouted.

“OFFICER ZHOU! STAND DOWN!” Tianhuo shouted, flying to almost touching distance.

He snapped his head to look at her and let out a low growl. “You have no right to command me. The only reason you even have the rank you do is because you kiss the hooves of the Empress!”

She nearly tackled him out of the air, but kept herself in check. It wasn’t the fact that he had called her a suck-up, or even that he had challenged her authority that had made her so mad. It was the fact that he had willing struck an ally, and that he dare to bring The Empress into this. She had gotten used to others making such claims, for rising through the ranks as she had made more than one enemy. But striking another? And declaring their Empress so petty? No. This was not going to happen. She was not going to stand for that.

“Officer Zhou. I have shown you great patience, but I cannot tolerate this. Either you stand down now, or I will have you thrown into chains and have you sent back to Huoshan in shame!” Tianhuo tried her best to cover the great anger that filled her. She had learned long ago that allowing such things to control her only caused tragedy.

His eyes glared at her and his hair flared for a moment. Tension, thick enough to cut with a knife, hung in the air between them. It only got thicker and thicker as the two stared at each other, threatening to burst at any moment.

“COMMANDER!” came a sudden cry from the ranks, but it was too late.
 
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OCisbestungulate

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Chapter Two
To Battle The Darkness
Part Two


All at once the world in front of Tianhuo's eyes went dark as she felt a sudden rush of wind from below her. The sudden rush of wind knocked her off course and blasted her away from the other two. She righted herself almost a moment too late as a sudden blast of darkness shot at her from below. Panic was replaced by training as she nimbly dodged the darkness. She looked over at where the other two were, and saw nothing. She glanced back at the troops following them, and saw that they had begun weaving and dodging more blasts from below.

“IN FORMATION!" she shouted. "DIVE!” She cried as she suddenly dove towards the ground. Another blast came at her, which she easily dodged. Though the sudden scream that she heard behind her told her that blast had hit one of her troops. She wanted to glance back, but she knew that so doing would only endanger her. She spiraled out of the way of another blast, and to her relief, heard nothing from behind her.

Far below them, standing on a hill, was a figure shrouded in darkness. It was impossible to tell what species it was, but judging from its size, it couldn't have been bigger then a deer or a unicorn. In front of the figure, covering a large flat patch of the ground, was a shape that was brimming with ribbons of crimson tendrils and unholy darkness.

It was an open door.

Tianhuo spiraled yet again as a blast fired from it. Two more followed in quick succession. It wouldn't be long until contact. She didn't know much about magic, but she wagered that if they took out the figure, then perhaps the door would vanish.

She narrowed her eyes and fixated her gaze upon her target, and nearly spiraled out of control as a blast of darkness suddenly exploded in the air in front of her. She beat her wings once, powerfully, and all but killed her momentum as the darkness before her suddenly took shape. Her jaw dropped.

She had never seen such a thing before. It had taken the form of what looked to be a huge bird, though it was made of shadow with deep red eyes and long talons that matched in color. It was easily twice her size. It let out a cry that rattled her bones and chilled her burning blood. So cold it made her, that her hair and wings went out.

She cried out in alarm as she suddenly dropped. She closed her eyes quickly and forced her flame out once more. Pain filled her head as something struck it, knocking her to the side and sending her flying out of control. She shook her head to clear the pain, but felt another blow as something huge plowed into her, rocketing her towards the ground.

She let out a cry anger and thrust her wings out to catch the air, causing her to suddenly pivot upwards, allowing her to unintentionally dodge another attack. She glanced down to look at her attacker and saw, to her surprise, that it had smashed directly into the ground behind her. The massive thing stood quickly, then glared at her for a moment. Then, with a single beat of its wings, it was off the ground and directly in front of her. How could this thing be so fast?! It swung a crimson talon at her, cutting through her wing, but missing her. This caused her no harm, but did cause her balance to falter. The bird raked at her again, but this time she saw it coming and kicked the incoming talon.

The beast let out a cry, and beat its wings once more, suddenly vanishing from her sight and blowing her back with a powerful gust of wind. She righted herself and glanced around to find it. It was then that she saw her detachment fighting a swarm of birds; each bird was almost as large as the longma fighting it, and made of the same shadowy stuff her opponent was made of. They fought bravely, but one by one, they were struck out of the air, and fell into the gaping hole below them.

She let out a mighty war cry and shot to them, but was cut short by a powerful blow to her back. The world went white for a split second as it all became pain, then it all came back as she smashed into the bare ground below her. She bounced from the impact, then landed in a heap. She rolled to the side as another impact hit the ground where she was, causing another gust of wind to blow her back. She rolled and rolled away from it, hoping to gain some distance, and jumped to her hooves. She stood there, fire in her eyes and pouring from her body, staring at the monster that now blocked her path to her troops. The creature stood upon its two legs, spread out its dark wings, and simply stared at her.

It didn't charge. It had no desire to charge. Horror filled her as she suddenly realized that it had no intention of engaging her. It was only blocking her from the battle that was unfolding behind it.

“NO!” she cried, “Let me through!” she took a step forward, and the monster beat its wings once more, causing it to suddenly appear in front of her once again. She dove to the side to avoid a blow from one of its wings, but she was too slow. She rolled head-over-hoof away from the creature for some distance before she finally stopped. She staggered to her hooves, her body was near its limit.

It was right about then that she heard a shrill scream from behind the creature. She tried to look to the side to see what had happened; and so did the bird. With it now distracted, she kicked off the ground and flew directly at the creature. It turned back to her, and beat its wings once again, but let out a cry of alarm as it went nowhere. She plowed directly into its torso with perfect accuracy, but felt little resistance as she came out through the other side of it. On the other side she saw to her surprise what looked to be two large dogs closing in on the shrouded figure. Glancing behind her, she saw a third dog had grabbed the tail of the monster and held it firm. The monster let out a horrific cry of agony, and then vaporized into a thick vapor. She watched what remained of it fly through the air, and into the door.

The shrouded figure looked over at her, at the dogs, then at a third figure that was now closing in. It paused for a moment, then turned once more to Tianhuo. “The door weakens, and this was but a taste of what lies on the other side!” it cried. Wait, that voice! It sounded like one of those … blast! It was right on the tip of her tongue! It then jumped into the open door, and vanished. Not a second later, the dark door folded upon itself, then vanished as well.

'The door weakens'? What was it talking about? No. It couldn't have been talking about THAT door. Not possible. Tianhuo shook her head. It was only a legend.

With the battle now over, Tianhuo looked up at the sky. Of the 9 troops entrusted to her, only three remained in the sky. A fourth was on the ground, unconscious. There was no trace of the other five, or of the other two officers. She landed as the three dogs ran to join the new-comer. It was a sheep; a female one at that. Her hair was matted in places and torn here and there. It had dirt and what appeared to be dark smudges of something else here and there in thick patches. As she approached, Tianhuo noticed that her face bore many scars. One of which crossed an eye, making it a milky orb.

“Are you okay?” the sheep asked the moment she was in ear-shot.

“I...” Tianhuo was not okay. The battle had badly battered her, and she could feel many painful wounds. “I am okay.” she lied. “My troops...” she glanced up at the air and saw, to her pride, the three airborne ones land next to their unconscious comrade and pick her up.

“How many of you are there?” the sheep asked, now standing before Tianhuo. The three dogs sat near her, clearly awaiting her orders. They were large, and also bore many scars. They were nearly twice the size of the sheep before her, and this sheep was not small by any measure.

“There were twelve of us.” she said, her voice cracking with pain. “Who are you?”

“I'm Pam. And these three mutts are Arf, Ruff, and Gruff.” she signaled to her three dogs who all perked up at attention at the mention of their names. “And who are you?” she asked, her voice soft, and full of concern. This surprised Tianhuo, for she would have expected someone like Pam to sound much gruffer and hardened. Instead, there was a gentleness about her. Something that made Tianhuo feel ... safe.

“I am Commander Tianhuo of the Huoshan Empire. I was sent to your homeland with a detachment of troops to provide protection.” She stood upright and saluted. “Are you a commander of the sheep army?”

Pam blinked at her a few times. “What?”

“Are you a commander of the sheep army?” Tianhuo repeated.

“Uh, we don't have an army.” Pam said, cocking her head to the side, clearly confused.

Tianhuo blinked several times. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” Pam nodded, “I'm pretty sure.”

“Then your scars, your dogs, where did you get them all?” Tianhuo was dumb-stuck. How could a nation not have an army?

“My family and I live near the border, so I get into scuffles a lot.” Pam shrugged.

“Are your borders that dangerous?” Tianhuo was suddenly not so sure of the doubt that she had earlier.

She shrugged again. “Sometimes. The real problem is that occasionally some young stud, or his gang, from The Prairie will try and mess with us sheep folk. You know, push us around, chase us a little, ask us to pick teams for dodge ball or something.”

“And they gave you those scars?” Tianhuo leaned in close to get a better look at them. They were many, and most were deep.

“No. Well, one or two. Sometimes those punks can get a little out of hoof. But no, these things came from dogs that lost control.” Pam patted her face softly. “That, and, well, darker things that have been showing up as of late.”

“Like what?” she pulled back, suddenly realizing that she was perhaps a bit too close for comfort.

“I'd love to sit here and play twenty questions with you, but you and your troops are really beat-up. In fact, I'm willing to bet that you're about to pass out any moment now.” Pam gave Tianhuo a concerned look.

“I feel fin-” and almost as if on cue, Tianhuo's world suddenly became dark.


EDIT: Sorry for the double post. I did not realize that these posts had a limit to their size :oops:
 
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Feanor

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I like this Pam already. That HAS to be Pom's mom, and a badass too! Gotta say I think Tian should have kicked that officer's butt though.

EDIT: Sorry for the double post. I did not realize that these posts had a limit to their size :oops:
Yeah, its lame. That is why I decided to post my chapters as links to Google Docs.
 
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OCisbestungulate

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I like this Pam already. That HAS to be Pom's mom, and a bad-a too! Gotta say I think Tian should have kicked that officer's butt though.
Thanks :)

And yeah, Tian totally should have, but then that would make her no better then him!

Yeah, its lame. That is why I decided to post my chapters as links to Google Docs.
That and indented paragraphs just ain't a thing. So I'm toying with the idea of just linking the parts from here on out.

Also: if anyone is interested, I could use a good proof-reader/editor. I already asked for help from someone else, but they recently got slammed with IRL stuff and thus are unable to help.
 
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OCisbestungulate

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To avoid an unsightly wall of text, I'm posting the next chunk under a spoiler tag, and may do as such for the others as well. That said, Here's chapter three:



Chapter Three
To Consort the Darkness
The darkness closed in on him as he propelled his way through it. It always filled him with terror, but at the same time, a sense of elation. He knew he was one step away from being eaten, one small step from death. And yet, he would have it no other way. He served them well, and in returned they gave him such wonderful power. He laughed as he felt the pain of the darkness tearing at his nearly hairless skin. He had taken on an entire squad of Longma by himself and had nearly won! No other ungulate of Foenum could ever make such a claim! Though, it had come a such a terrible cost.

The darkness about him vanished as he arrived at what he, and the others, called the Grand Chamber. It was a massive underground dome, with a large, deep pit that stretched nearly wall to wall. Around it was a small, high (too high to reach from within the pit) walkway of stone. It was wide enough to walk upon, but only one at a time. In the great pit were ungulates of all shapes and sizes. Many were freshly captured, and either unconscious or trying to escape. Those who were not bidding for freedom, had either given up hope of escape, or were preventing the fresh ones from leaving.

Connecting to the Grand Chamber were several passageways that led out and to various parts of the complex. Not far from the largest of the passageways was a small, flat metal platform for viewing those inside the pit. It was upon this platform that he appeared. As the wisps of shadow vanished from around him, he coughed several times. This continued for several moments, each cough harsher then the last, until he finally coughed up an amulet. He watched it fall to the floor, and his face twisted in disgust and anger as he did so.

It was an opal, wrought in iron and on a steel chain. The opal, however, was now cracked and the once brilliant color inside of it was now gone. His masters had only given him three such amulets, and this was the second one that he had used. He kicked it over the side, and into the pit below.

He looked over the edge and smiled. It seemed that the power of the Masters had spread to even more receiving minds. Below him he saw several ungulates whose foreheads now bore the mark that dominated his face. The mark itself was as black as night, and from the edges seeped a crimson light, causing the mark to all but glow. There were others who heads bore the mark, but it had not yet begun to emit the red light. These were those who had not yet accepted the way of the Masters. All newcomers, be they voluntary or not, were branded with the mark. Those who accepted the Masters gained the glow, and were taken out of the pit so that they might serve the Masters. As for those who refused?

He watched as an old bull was pulled from the pit by several young cows. The he fought and struggled against the dark tendrils that bound him, but was no match against the four cows whose symbols glowed brightly. They hauled the old bull over the edge of the pit, released him from their snares, and then dragged him down the greatest of the passageways. He had seen what was to come many times, but it never grew old in his eyes. Thus he glanced once more into the pit, then followed after them.

The passage, barely wider then the four cows standing next to each other, bent sharply to the left shortly after its entrance and then stretched for some distance. At the end sat a massive door made of shadows. The cows half-carried, half-dragged the bull to it, amid its protests and cries of alarm. He sighed. The unenlightened (as he liked to call them) almost always did or said the same things: pleas for mercy, bargaining, and occasionally some would try and give them commands (such as the ever popular 'let me go!'). But, in the end, it all ended the same.

The four cows dumped the bull in front of the door, then blocked the passage with their bodies. The bull looked up at the great thing before him, and began to panic. He ran from it, but got no further then the cows that blocked him. He looked at them, begging that they take him away from this thing. Much to his great pride, all four of them said 'No', at the same time.

“You serve them well.” He said as he apporched them. A couple of them to jumped slightly in surprise.

One of them looked over her shoulder at him. “You're back! Were you successful?” her eyes lit up with excitement.

“If things work out they way they should, we will soon have several longma to count among our ranks.” he smiled.

The four cows mooed in excitement, causing him to frown slightly. These four served the Masters well, but the mooing always killed the mood. Kinda hard to take them seriously when they make such silly sounds whenever they get excited. “And the amulet?” she asked.

His face became grim. “It is spent.”

The four of them went quiet. “That only leaves one...” she closed her eyes and sank her head.

“Yes. But let me worry about that. We have a more pressing concern before us, do we not?” he said, looking at the old bull that stared at him with wide eyes.

The cow that had been speaking to him suddenly perked up, and turned her head to look at the bull, “Yes, yes we do! Do you want to do it? Or do you want me to do it?”

“I shall do it.” he said as he took a single step forward. He looked up at the massive door, and spoke in loud, clear tones:

Door that binds such power unfed,
That holds such terrible dread,
With the power of we the chosen,
We command you this fool's mind to open!

The great door shuttered, and shook. What little light that filled the passage vanished, and all colors inverted to their opposite. The bull ran from the now wispy white door, and slammed once more into the cows that grinned at him with smiles black as night. The walls and floor shuttered as the door began to open slightly. The old bull let out a cry as the echo of a thousand voices suddenly filled the air:

Hunger we know and feel,
To us you bring a meal,
Upon its will we will feast,
And to you we give a mindless beast!

The door flew open, and from the blinding brightness inside shot several white claws that wrapped around the old bull. They pulled him to the ground, and dragged him into the open maw. His cry was lost as he vanished into the darkness, replaced by an eerie silence that filled the passage. He always loved that silence. It gave him a moment to ponder what happens to those who are given to their Masters.

At length, the bull finally emerged from the darkness. His eyes were now blank, and solid cobalt. His jaw hung slightly, and he swayed a little on his legs. The door slammed shut, and what little light that filled the passage returned, causing the color of the bulls eyes to change to their proper crimson.

“Welcome to your new home, Servant.” he grinned. “And now, if you five will, come with me. We have several Longma that will arrive soon. We'll need everyone to keep them under control.” he turned around to his way back to the pit.

Ziege...”

Each of them felt the voice speak, and it filled their hearts with terror.

“Ziege. You are not done. You will stay.”

The six of them turned to look at the door, which pulsed with a deep violet light.

“Begone, cattle. You shall not hear our words!”

The five bovine that filled the passage turned away from the door, and ran as though death itself was on their hooves. Well, four of them did anyway. The fifth kinda lumbered along as swiftly as he could.

He was alone. Gathering his courage, he turned once more to the door. “Speak, oh Unspeakable one. I shall hear your wor-”

The Gem of the Raptor has been broken. It is a great loss, for having a winged ally was a boon.” the dread voice chilled his heart. “And you have failed to do that which I commanded.” The mark on his face suddenly flared with a brilliant red and he cried out in pain. It felt as though his whole face had caught fire. “Explain.” it commanded, causing the light to drain once more from the passage.

“The Raptor, it had been destroyed by the very longma that you had sent me to capture!” He furrowed his brow as his mind ran over the battle once more. Now that he thought on it, something was off. “And it acted, strangely.”

Explain.” the voice commanded once more, causing his heart to falter.

“The Raptor, it battled her, but it only kept her at bay." he shook his head. "It never tried to take her captive. The other birds, they took and captured others as I had commanded. But yet, The Raptor had ignored my commands. Why?" he looked up at the large door, "Did you not give me comm-”

Leave, and do not waste the final gem.” his heart stopped completely for a moment, and his whole body went numb. Then it felt as though a terrible fire shot through his body as his heart began beating once more. He bowed his head once, and left. His master was not one for patience.

As he made his way back to the Grand Chamber, he shook his head. He trusted the Masters. If they had deemed that she was not to be captured, then surely they would have told him so. After all, it was not they who had commanded that he send that scroll to the longma? Had they not commanded him to do so, so that he might lure them into a trap? He shook his head once more. There would be time to ponder this later. For now he, and the others, had more pressing concerns. Once the longma had been branded by the darkness that would bring them here, it would be up to them to keep them contained and finally open their minds; one way or another...

Yes, I know the whole "Hunger we know and feel, To us you bring a meal..." thing was corny. Poetry isn't a grand talent I possess :p
 
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Feanor

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Yes, I know the whole "Hunger we know and feel, To us you bring a meal..." thing was corny. Poetry isn't a grand talent I possess :p
I've seen worse, believe me :p

Glad to see another update! Now I gotta get to work to catch up again, falling behind with so much busy-ness in my life!
 

The Yaski

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Hm.
Hmmmm.
HMMMMMMMMMMMMM.
Something here looks familiar.
Might this "Ziege" be your persona OC? He certainly has similar leanings, and appears to be the leader of the Hunters. But maybe he's just a new character, you tell me. I'm guessing this forum is beyond the realm of red text? Sad.
As for my review, I like it. Look forward to more. 5/7 perfect score.
 

OCisbestungulate

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Hm.
Hmmmm.
HMMMMMMMMMMMMM.
Something here looks familiar.
Might this "Ziege" be your persona OC? He certainly has similar leanings, and appears to be the leader of the Hunters. But maybe he's just a new character, you tell me. I'm guessing this forum is beyond the realm of red text? Sad.
As for my review, I like it. Look forward to more. 5/7 perfect score.
The Mods have kindly asked us to keep our silly text shenanigans in the RP threads. I'll be honest, I was tempted to use it in the story, but it is kinda hard to read. Well, not super hard per say for some folks perhaps, but I figure it's better to focus on readability rather then red text. No need to distract from the narrative, eh?

Also: Thanks. It's always nice to hear nice things.
 

The Yaski

Acting representative of the Empire of Tianhuo
Backers' Beta Tester
Feb 3, 2016
255
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The Mods have kindly asked us to keep our silly text shenanigans in the RP threads. I'll be honest, I was tempted to use it in the story, but it is kinda hard to read. Well, not super hard per say for some folks perhaps, but I figure it's better to focus on readability rather then red text. No need to distract from the narrative, eh?

Also: Thanks. It's always nice to hear nice things.
OBJECTION! You still have yet to answer my first and primary question!

Edit: Wait, found your "Introduce your OC" thread. Nvm
 
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OCisbestungulate

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I lost power about a month ago for only 24 hours, but it was long enough to pump out some more chapters, as I had nothing less important to do. Then the power came back, and then productivity went to near zero. Yay for the internet! :D


Chapter Four
Respite From The Darkness
Tianhuo's dreams were, unsurprisingly, troubled. She dreamed once more of Honored Mother. This time, however, her form was shrouded in darkness as had been the monster she had faced. In her dream mother spoke to her, over and over. Each time she spoke the same thing: 'Our kin are coming!' Her words were not words of warning, or panic; but of joy! Her voice echoed through the halls of Tianhuo's mind, and filled a part of her heart with anticipation and eagerness: an eagerness to hunt.

Honored Father spoke too, though his voice was distant and it took her great effort to hear it. His words were indistinct, but she knew what he said: He told her to resist mother's words. He told her to resist her plea; her unspoken command to give in and become like her and her kin It was hard to hear him, for his voice was so weak.

A sudden movement jolted her awake, a shot of pain to flew through her, and her body erupted in flame.

“AHHHH!” a cry from below her startled her, “MY WOOL IS ON FIRE!” Tianhuo blinked a moment, then extinguished herself, though that did little to help the situation. She was lying on something, something that was suddenly moving quite a lot, and on fire. “HELP, HEEELP!” it cried.

Tianhuo took a deep breath, and forced the flames out once more. Then, as though she was taking a deep gasp through her skin, she sucked her fire into her body, taking the flames that burned beneath away with them. She tried to stand, but her body simply wouldn't allow that to happen. “Are you alright? That should have taken care of it!” she shouted.

She turned her head this way and that way to try and see what she had set on fire, but her injured neck only let her glance about the room she was in. It was fairly small, humble, and mostly made of mud walls. There were a few windows, and a door on the far wall, which had a small cupboard attached to the wall next to it. Near her was a table with what looked like simple bowls with soup in them, and a cabinet with a few simple clay dishes in it.

“Yes, yes, I'm alright. But it's gonna take forever to grow this all out again...” the voice that spoke was small, male, and surprisingly mild. “And now the house is gonna smell awful for a few days.”

“Awful? Why is th-” a sudden horrid smell filled her nostrils, causing her to nearly gag. “W-What is that?!”

“The smell of burnt hair. I take it you've never smelled it before?” the voice asked. She felt whatever she was lying on shift a little.

“We longma don't really have hair, so no.” She paused for a moment. “Who are you? And,": she paused as a thought dawned on her, "am I laying on you?”

“My name's Pop. You've already met my wife Pam. She hauled you into here a few days ago. And yes. I suffer from a condition that makes me over twice as fluffy as other sheep. While it makes me constantly feel hot, and makes getting around a pain, it allows me to be a fine bed if the need arises.” Tianhuo felt Pop shift yet again.

“You mean that I'm using you as a bed?”

“Yep.”

“And that you're directly under me?”

“Sure am.”

“And that you're covered in so much wool that you can be used as a bed?”

“You got it.”

“...” she paused, “I just set you on fire, didn't I?”

There was another pause. “Yes. Yes you did.”

Silence hung in the air. If a pin had dropped, one could have heard it. “Are you hurt?” Tianhuo finally asked.

“No, but I have the feeling that I'm gonna look a little strange for a while. Hopefully this won't cause black to come into vogue in The Meadow. That would take forever to go away.”

“What do you mean?” it was very strange talking to someone that she could hear so clearly, but could not see.

“Well, our family are kinda like the outcasts of The Meadow. You see, unlike most of our kin, we tend to not do what everysheep else does. So, when we do things differently then the rest, either they all shun us, or embrace what we've done like fanatics. I remember one time when I accidentally bumped into a tree and a couple of beehives feel into my wool. The rest of them thought it was the coolest idea they had ever seen, and next thing you know, nearly every sheep had bees living in their wool.”

“Bees?” Tianhuo asked in disbelief.

“Yeah, bees. It took years, YEARS, for that fad to go out of style.” she could feel him shake his head.

“Didn't it hurt?”

“Like you wouldn't believe.” he shook his head again.

The door suddenly slammed open, and Tianhuo turned her head to see who it was. Pam stood in the door, with a bag of flour hanging from her mouth. She smiled and dropped it. “But, honey, don't you mean: BEElieve?” she began cracking up as Pop let out a painful groan.

“Not the bee puns … anything but the bee puns...” he whimpered.

Tiahou looked at her with a confused look. She shook her head and waved a hoof in the air, “Don't mind him. He just can't appreciate a good pun.”

“EVERYDAY.” he said, rather forcefully, “I heard those stupid puns, EVERYDAY.”

“You're just BEEing a drama queen. You didn't heard them everyday.” she picked up her sack once more, and brought it to the table where she placed it near one of the bowls.

“Yes, I did. YOU didn't have to deal with that because you were either out in the fields, away from everysheep, or out on patrol. So don't give me that!” Tianhuo felt a shift under her and guessed that he had pointed a leg at Pam.

“BEE nice dear.” she sweetly smiled. “We have a guest.”

Pop let out another groan of pain.

“Where are my troops?” Tianhuo asked.

“The other four that were with you?” Pam asked, looking at Tianhuo, who nodded. “They're alright. They've been doing my job for me ever since they hauled you into our home. And the one who was knocked out was up and ready to go the next day.” she let out a sigh. “I gotta admit, you longma are a tough bunch. I mean, you took quite a beating, and you were only out for about a week.”

“A WEEK?!” Tianhuo shouted, doing her poor body no favors as she did so.

“Just about. In speaking of which, are you hungry dear?” Pam looked down below Tianhuo.

“No! It can't be! You must be lying!” Tianhuo insisted. No, a week was far too long! Her troops, they were in enemy hooves! NO!

“The only one lying here is my dear husband.” Pam said with a smile as she picked up one of the bowls and brought it over to Tianhuo's side, and laid it on the floor next to her husband. “Are you hungry? You must be famished.” She asked as she looked up into Tianhuo's stunned face. “Thirsty too I'd bet. We tried to give you water while you were out, but it kept turning to steam in your mouth whenever we tried to give you some.”

“No! We have to go! I have orders to-”

“Stay right here until you are healed enough to move.” Pam said, laying a gentle hoof on Tianhuo's shoulder. “I don't think you realize just how much you got pummeled during that fight. In fact, it was the tremor from when you hit the ground that warned me that something was going on.” she shook her head. “Good thing too. Things were looking pretty grim when I showed up. Your troops were getting dragged into that shadowy door of darkness, and you looked half-dead.” She then walked over to the small cupboard next to the door. “You longma are a tough bunch. I mean, I can take a hit or two, but nothing like what you guys went through.” Pam shrugged as she opened the cupboard. “Tell me, do you guys go in for herbal remedies?”

Tianhuo was stunned. Gone? Just like that? Twelve of them had set out, and now only 5 remained. She had been a commander for less then a day, and she had already lost two commanders and over half her troops. Not only that, she had to deal with a direct challenge of her command right from the get-go. And to top it all off, they had been gone for almost seven days! Her heart sank. How was she going to explain all of this? And to add insult to injury, they were saved by the very same ungulates they were sent to protect!

“Tianhuo, are you alright?” Pam asked.

Tianhuo was pulled from her thoughts as she turned her head to look at the sheep that now stared at her with worry. “I … I'm fine.” she lied.

Pam shook her head. “You said the same thing before you fell unconscious for 5 days. You don't like getting help do you?”

Tianhuo said nothing.

Pam looked at her for a moment. “Or is it pride?” she asked.

“It's pride.” Pop said from beneath her.

“No it's not!” Tianhuo objected through her lying teeth.

“What makes you so sure?” Pam asked.

“She set me on fire and didn't apologize.” Tianhuo didn't see it, but he winked at Pam.

“Wait, that doesn't even make sens-” Tianhuo started, but Pam ignored her objection wholesale and talked right over her.

“Oh. That would explain your sudden obsession with black and the smell when I can home.” she tapped a thoughtful hoof to her chin. “Did you know the pups didn't want to come in because of it?”

“That would explain why you only came in.” Pop nodded.

The two of them began idly chatting about their dogs (in which Tianhuo discovered that there were five total, two of them being his), and Tianhuo felt a sting inside of her. They were right. Here they were, taking her into their home, nursing her back to health, and yet, she had not once said thank you, or apologized for almost hurting Pop. But, try as she might, she couldn't bring herself to do it. It was as though there was great wall between those words and her mouth. 'After all', a part of her said, 'it's only natural that they should do this. We're the protectors of Foenum, so naturally ungulates like them are supposed to do things like this for longma like me. If anything, they're in our debt, with what we do for them!'

Yeah. She was doing a fine job of protecting them from the fluffy back of a burnt ram. She let out a heavy sigh. She had failed hard. Her mind began rolling through possible things that could end up happening to her. Would she lose her commission? Would she be court-marshaled? Would they strip her of her honor and cast her out? She closed her eyes, and tried to push those thoughts from her mind. She had a mission to finish. She would worry about those things when they happened. For now, she had to recover, then head back to Huoshan with what remained of her troops. “Pam?” she asked.

Pam looked up from an argument she had apparently gotten into with her husband. “What?!” she snapped.

“Boiling water, or cool lava. That's what we drink.” She said softly.

Pam blinked a few times. It was clear that it was taking her mind a few moments to shift from the argument to what Tianhuo had just said. “Oh. Oh! Right! Boiling water! Right! I'll get right on that, since we're fresh out of lava!”

“You sure about that, honey? You were just spewing plenty of it a moment ago.” Pop chuckled.

“Oh shut your mouth, or I'll invite all of the neighbors to come over and see your new look!” She shook her head as she grabbed a kettle and walked out the door. Tianhuo felt a shudder of terror from beneath her. “Oh,” Pam poked her head into the doorway once more, “Sorry about yelling at you. Pop here was saying that we should name all of the dogs the same thing because that's what everysheep else was doing.” she rolled her eyes. “Anyway, be right back with your water!” she disappeared once more.

“I thought you said that you two don't do what the other sheep do?” Tianhuo asked curiously.

“Well, we ARE sheep. It's kinda in out nature to follow the herd...” Pop said rather, um, sheepishly. Then there was a poignant pause.

“Hey...” Tianhuo said softly.

That word hung in the air for several moments, begging for an answer.

“Yes?” Pop finally said.

“I just wanted to say s-s… S…" try as she might, she simply couldn't say it, so she shut her mouth for a moment, then opened it once more: "Thank you for looking after my troops.” she finally spat out.

“Apology accepted.” came the reply, much to her annoyance. Though that didn't stop the small smile that crossed both her and his lips.

You know, I've always wondered how one says "..." I mean, do they just say "dot dot dot"? I mean, that would be silly. But so would saying "ellipses". As a side note: I first encountered a character saying "..." in a JRPG, and since I had never encountered it before, I was so very confused.
 
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OCisbestungulate

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So I have the next chapter ready to go, I'm just giving it a day or two to sit before I go over it once more before I post it.

Also: it would seem I just triple posted. I'm not really sure how to avoid this, but at least I can avoid quad posting by attaching the next bit to this post :D

That said, the next bit's a bit heavier. Not sure how heavy, but at least a bit more so then the others.
 

0Zero100

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So I have the next chapter ready to go, I'm just giving it a day or two to sit before I go over it once more before I post it.

Also: it would seem I just triple posted. I'm not really sure how to avoid this, but at least I can avoid quad posting by attaching the next bit to this post :D

That said, the next bit's a bit heavier. Not sure how heavy, but at least a bit more so then the others.
Quick, to the Batcave! *BlLllllLllLllllll*
There, now no more dbl posts. Plus I really like your story. So, now we've got soda POP, PAM cooking spray, and POM ellipses -padour. And OH GOD NOT THE BEES
 
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OCisbestungulate

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Welp, here ya go, Chapter Five.


Chapter Five
To Become The Darkness
Part One
Tianhuo choked back a cry of pain as Ruff grabbed a rear hoof. She twisted hard and dove once again at the ground, dodging Gruff's airborne attempt to bite her face. Just before impact she pulled up, and slammed Ruff onto the ground, hard. Ruff yelped, but still held his grasp. She turned just in time to see Arf flying at her, and promptly head-butted the poor pup in her face. One quick midair spin-with-Ruff-to-Arf's-face-kick, and both dogs went flying away. She smirked slightly, only to have it replaced by a sudden gasp of pain as she felt something bite onto her rear hoof again. She swung it forward, and brought both of her front hooves down upon Gruff's head, knocking her off. She beat her wings hard and pulled away from the dogs, giving her a moment and some distance to assess the situation.

“That's enough mutts!” Pam shouted and her three dogs (who had already recovered from their blows) promptly ran to her side, sat on the ground, and began panting happily. Tianhuo looked at them with a touch of awe. Their master carried several battle scars, but they were nearly scarred from head to tail. Whatever it was these dogs fought, it was no joke. To say nothing of their perfect coordination and incredible speed. Pam gave Tianhuo a level look, then grinned. “Looks like you've gotten better. I have to give it to ya, you longma are made of some pretty sturdy stuff.”

“Thank you.” Tianhuo replied simply. It had been almost a week since she had woken up, and it had taken only two days before she was ready to be on her hooves again. During her down-time she had taken the chance to chat with her hosts. She learned much of the sheep, The Meadow, and her two caregivers. She had learned that the two of them had moved out to the edge of The Meadow to get away from everysheep. Pity it was that several other sheep thought it was a great idea and followed them. This annoyed Pop greatly, as he had wanted to get away so that sheep would stop thinking that his accidents were brilliant fashion statements. As for Pam, she had wanted to move because she was part of a group of sheep who had chosen to live at the edge of The Meadow to do exactly what she was doing: protecting their borders. Tianhuo also learned that she also did most of the farm work since Pop couldn't move around very much. Luckily, his two dogs had no problem taking orders from Pam and thus helped her out when he couldn't.

Pam walked over to her side, and put a hoof on her shoulder. “You're quick.” Pam said.

Tianhuo shook her head. “Not quick enough. I couldn't dodge the shadow's blows, and your dogs still got a couple of bites on me.”

Pam sighed and put her hoof back on the ground, “Can't you longma just accept a compliment? Anyway, look at it this way: For most of the morning, it's been five verses one. And this time it was only three verses one. I think you did pretty good considering.”

Tianhuo shook her head. “But not good enough. I must learn how to dodge every blow. I must become quicker!”

“Good clay basket!” Pam rolled her eyes. “Don't you ever think of anything else? Ever since you woke up, it's all been 'I've got to get stronger!' this and 'I've got to be faster!' that! I mean, sure, you guys are all about combat and stuff, but you've got to learn to relax! What do you do for fun back home?”

Tianhuo blinked. “We practice.”

“Practice what?”

“Combat.”

Pam smacked her face with a hoof, “No, for fun! What do you guys do for fun?”

Tianhuo shook her head. Her troops were missing, and she needed to get better if she wanted to have a chance at saving them. Already it had been nearly two weeks since the attack, and any more time wasted meant they were in all the more danger. “I mean no disrespect, but we don't have time for this. How can I relax when my troops are missing?”

Pam let out a sigh and walked back to her dogs, who were patiently waiting for her near the edge of the clearing in which they had been practicing. “Because if you let something like that constantly weigh you down, your mind is going to be too slow to react in time. You've got to be focused on the here and now of a fight. You can't let what may or may not happen control your thoughts. And if you don't give yourself some time to unwind during training, you're gonna snap and become too frazzled to do anything!”

Tianhuo's eye twitched. Was a sheep giving her combat advice? A sheep? Giving her advice? She was the rising star of the Imperial Army! SHE was the one who was hoof-picked to lead this mission! SHE was the one who should be telling HER how to fight! “Excuse me, Ms. Pam, but I do not recall asking you how to do my job.” she nearly growled, her flames licking about a little to quickly.

Pam rolled her eyes. “Calm down hot shot.” she sighed again. “Seriously. Chill out. My dogs and I are cool with you pounding on them all day long, but you've got to know your limits and respect them!”

“Don't you tell me how to fight!” her flames suddenly flared, startling a few nearby woodland critters. “I'm a commander in the Imperial Army! I KNOW how to fight!”

Pam gave her an unimpressed deadpan look. “Look, missy, I'm not telling you how to fight. I'm telling you to take it easy before you burn yourself out!” She turned to her dogs, put a hoof to her lips, and gave a sharp whistle. “I think we're done for now. You need to learn how to keep a cool head before we can do any more.”

Tianhuo's hooves had begun to shake. The flames on her body begun to darken from a bright orange, to a dark blue. She dug at the ground, and spoke with a trembling voice, “Who do you think you ar-”

It was right about then when a small white figure popped out of some bushes near them. Tianhuo wasted no time and charged, flames in full blaze, at the interloper. She let out a battle cry as she made contact with the fluffy white ball.

Much to her surprise however, it was not the tiny target that she had collided with. Pam let out a battle cry of her own as she wrapped her forelegs around Tainhou's head, and slammed her into the ground. She quickly rolled to get on her hooves, but Pam's dogs were quicker. They grabbed three of her hooves, and pulled. Pam grabbed Tianhuo's last leg, and bent it back as she body-slammed her spine. Tiahou let out a roar of pain as her flames filled the air around her, catching and engulfing Pam. Then a sharp pain through her body put a stop to that as everything went dark.

Then there was silence.
 
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OCisbestungulate

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Chapter Five
To Become The Darkness
Part Two
Tianhuo lay there, unable to move, with her face looking into the ground as her vision cam back to her. She heard nothing save a slight breeze that blew through the trees around her. She struggled to free herself but it was no use. Though, to her surprise, she felt no pain.

Her fruitless struggle continued for several moments until she finally heard Pam's voice. “Are you okay? The dog's an't hurting you, are they?” The fact that she was concerned, rather then gloating, bothered Tiahou deeply.

“Let go of me!” she demanded.

“Only if you agree to not roast our little lamb here.” Pam said, a clear smile in her voice.

“Wait, what?” Tianhuo looked up in surprise. There, at the edge of the clearing, sat a tiny ball of white wool. Tianhuo blinked a few times, causing the blur to come into focus.

It was a tiny, white, fluffy, little ewe lamb, and it was scared to death.

“Pom, this is Tianhuo. Tianhuo, this is Pom.” Pam said, still holding Tianhuo's now numb leg, “Pom here is just a young little thing. She doesn't even have any puppies yet.”

“M-mom. What i-i-is that thing?!” the tiny ball of fluff asked in a quivering voice.

“She is your daughter? I-I am sor-” she tried to say it, but once again, she couldn't get it out. “I didn't know!”

Pam laughed a little. “No. She's not my daughter. But she's like a daughter. She, and sometimes her brother, come over to our home all of the time. We're practically half raising her! Though you didn't get to meet until now on account of her and her family being out of town for the past week or so.” she smiled, then turned to Pom. “In speaking of which, where is your brother?”

Pom peeled her terrified eyes away from Tianhuo to answer Pam's question. Tianhuo, however, never did hear what Pom had said. You see, the look in little Pom's eyes had reminded her of a young longma from long ago....

She suddenly felt sick. She had vowed to never do such a thing ever again in her life, and yet, she had just done it. Her anger, mother's influence, they had taken control of her! No, that wasn't completely true. She had chosen to become angry. She had chosen to embrace it and act on it, but…

No. She had done nothing wrong. Not her. She had every reason to be proud of herself. She had nothing to apologize for. This was beyond her control. Mother was to blame. “You calm now?” Pam relaxed her grip slightly, allowing some feeling to return to Tianhuo's leg.

“Yes.” She relaxed her body and felt both Pam and her dogs release her legs. It took some time for her to get to her four hooves again. Whatever Pam did to her that knocked her out, did a number on her. Her limbs felt weak, and it took some effort to get her flame to come out. Still, she was able to stand, though a bit slowly. “What did you do to me?” she asked, looking at Pam who now stood next to the little ewe.

Tianhuo's jaw dropped. Pam looked horrible. Half of her wool was gone, and what was still there was pitch black and withered. To say nothing of what looked like burns on her skin and face. She looked around at the dogs. They too were missing hair and burnt, though for them it was mostly around their faces. Her heart dropped. No, not them. Not the sheep she had been so kind to her.

Pam shrugged. “I hit you right where I was hoping a pressure point would be. I don't know much about you longma, on account of you guys being the first I've ever really met, but I was hoping that you were built kinda the same as us sheep. Good thing I was right, eh?” she said with a half chuckle and a smirk.

Tiahou felt even worse. Not only had she just nearly injured a little ewe, she had been beaten by a sheep, and had even potentially given her serious injuries! Yet, she was laughing as though there was nothing wrong. Tianhuo stared at her in disbelief, “How? How can you stand there and laugh about this?”

Pam cocked her head to the side. “Huh? What do you mean?”

“I nearly took out your daughter and cooked you alive, and you're laughing?” Tiahou looked at her dumbfounded.

“Well, everything's fine, right? And she's not my daughter, technically.” Pam looked over at the ewe who was staring at her black wool.

Tianhuo shook her head. “No, it's not! Look at you! Look at your dogs! How are you standing? Are you not injured?”

Pam shook her head. “You really need to learn to relax. First off, I'm fine. Trust me, I've been through worse, and so have my dogs. A little fire like that isn't gonna be enough to hurt me bad. Perhaps your everyday sheep, sure, but I kinda have to be tougher then that, ya know? I mean, I wouldn't be doing this if I couldn't take a hit or two. So don't worry about me, are you okay? I mean, you really lost it there.”

Tianhuo was stunned. All her life she had been taught that combat was no laughing matter. If it was a duel, it was a thing of respect and deep honor. If it was defense, it was to be done as quickly as possible, but with as much restraint as needed to subdue the threat. If it was offense, one must take down their foe with speed and precision. There was no laughing, no kidding around. Combat was no joke. And yet, Pam was one step away from laughing. Not at Tianhuo's weakness, as had her peers and teachers had done, but because she was happy. There was no taunting, no mockery, nothing.

“I-I...” she was at a loss for words. What could she say? Her pride had taken one of the worst beatings it had ever received, and yet, she didn't feel bitter about it. She wanted to, she tried, but looking into Pam's face, she just couldn't. She looked down at Pom's face, which was no longer filled with terror. She was still a little scared, but in a slowly-draining-away kind of way.

“M-mom? What's going on? Are you okay?” the little ewe looked up at Pam, who winked at her.

“I'm fine sweetie. And Tianhuo here was just about to apologize.” Pam looked up at her and smiled sweetly.

Suddenly her head and heart exploded with fire. “I-I,” she nearly shouted and dropped her head as her front hooves dug into the ground. “I WILL DO NO SUCH THING!” she shouted. Flames fired out of her and filled the air around her. The leaves on the trees surrounding the clearing caught fire and the whole place filled with an immense heat. Pom let out a horrified screech and ducked as Tianhuo launched herself from the ground and rocketed to the sky.

“What is your problem?!” Pam shouted up at her.

Tianhuo leveled herself and looked down at her. “I have nothing to apologize for! Nothing!” she shouted.

For the first time, she saw anger flash in Pam's eyes. “You know what your problem is? You've got too much pride in that hot head of yours! You keep that up, and one day it's gonna explode!” she shouted back, raising a protective leg in front of Pom.

“Pride? Why shouldn't I be proud? Do you know who I am? I'm one of the youngest officers in the Huoshan Empire! I take orders from the Grand General herself! I have rank! And I got there through grit, toughness, and skill! And you! You're just a lowly sheep! We were sent to protect you! And what right do you think you have telling me what I'm going to do? You know nothing!” she screamed, her flames burning furiously out of control.

“I know a lowly sheep kicked your sorry tail, Miss High-Ranking Officer.” Pam shot back at her.

Tianhuo's world turned to red. Her vision, her mind, everything was set on one thing: Destroy her. The Tianhuo that had befriended Pam was now gone, a distant memory in her now boiling mind. In her mind she heard the shouts of mother crying over and over: Hunt, Kill, EAT!

Something deep within her heart opened, and she embraced it.

A terrible cry split the sky as Tianhuo let out a mighty roar that enveloped her in fire. Had she heard her own voice, she would have known that roar. It was the roar of a dragon.

“Pom! Get back!” Pam shouted and let out a sharp whistle. Not a moment later Pop's two dogs came bursting out of the trees, and all five dogs surrounded Pam, growling at the monster that now flew high in the air above their master.

Tianhuo didn't know what happened next. She knew there was fire. She knew that she was flying, and fast. She could feel the wind, and she felt a terrible impact. She could feel blow after blow after blow. Some of them were hers, and some were not. She felt no pain, nor any form of exhaustion. She could only feel one thing: a burning passion to destroy. She had no idea that she had sent one of the dogs flying. Nor had she any idea that another had been sent sprawling, unconscious, across the clearing. She had not the mind to see that Pam had been thrown against tree after tree, and still kept coming at her. She could not see that Pom had frozen, terror stricken, in place and that she had tired more then once to attack the little ewe. Pam had, time and time again, kicked her, knocked her out of the air, body-slammed her; but none of these things she felt. She only felt her fury, her anger; her hunger for meat; A hunger that had blinded he to when she had finally set Pam ablaze. All she knew was when she was finally knocked from her rage after she had been tackled and severely pummeled by her own troops.

“Commander!” one of them cried, “Commander! Get a hold of yourself!” her voice was panicked, and filled with desperation. She smacked her in the head once more, finally clearing her mind of the rage that had so fully controlled it.

Tianhuo looked up at the young private that now stared down at her. “P-Private?” she said, dumbfounded. “W-what's the meaning of this?” she blinked a few times, a bit lost.

“Commander! You've come to your senses! Thank goodness! You'd gone berserk and torched that sheep over there!” she, and the other three solders who had helped her, stood back as she pointed a hoof to her left.

“I, what?” she turned her head to the side, and her mouth dropped open in horror. She saw, lying there in a heap with four of the five dogs either missing or unconscious, was a charred and nearly broken Pam. Her breathing was labored and shaking. Pom stood near her, her eyes wide with fear, and on the verge of tears.

“M-mom?” she said, reaching a hoof out to touch her, causing Pam to flinch weakly.

“pom...” she said softly, but Tianhuo heard nothing else. Whether it was because Pam's voice had dropped too low to hear, or because of the sound of her troops helping her stand overwhelmed her voice, she didn't know.

Tiahnou stood there, jaw gaping. What ... what happened?

“Commander?” Tianhuo turned to look at the young private, who was awaiting orders.

“I-I...” she started, as it all suddenly hit her all at once. Everything she had just done, her wounds, her actions, all of it. It hit her like a giant boulder crashing down a mountain, and she fell to her knees.

“Commander!” she said, panic once again rising in her voice.

Tianhuo looked over at Pam's ragged form, and saw Pom's eyes beginning to run with tears as the little ewe tried to nudge her. “I-I...” Tianhuo said, but her voice failed her.

“Get her home!” One of the other troops shouted. “Private, you stay with Commander Tianhuo.” the two remaining troops gave a salute, and flew over to Pam's meek form. Pom screamed, and turned to run, but stopped and looked at Pam as though she had said something. The lone remaining dog growled at them and nearly stopped them, but retreated at the last moment, as though she had been commanded to do so. The one who spoke leaned down to look at Pom in the eye, “Do not worry little one. We are here to help. Lead us to your home, and we will take your mother there.” Two of the guards carefully picked her up, and turned to the little ewe expectantly

“Sir! What about the other dogs?” of the troops carrying Pam asked.

“I'll take one and...” the rest of the conversation was lost to Tianhuo, who's regret and shame had finally blotted out the world around her. A great weight had fell upon her heart, and crushed it. The world around her had grew dim, and the pain that her body felt paled in comparison to the weight she now bore. What had she done? What had SHE done?!

“Commander, are you alri-” the private began, but was cut off by Tianhuo suddenly shooting up into the air, and flying with terrible speed off into the sky. “COMMANDER!” she cried after her, but was it was no use. Tianhuo was already out of ear-shot. “Commander?” she watched as she was quickly vanished into the horizon. She let out a heavy sigh. “Now what do I do? Should I follow her?” he looked around at the empty, and scorched, clearing. “Well, I guess I should follow orders. I hope she takes a rest at some point...” she beat her wings and took to the air. She was never going to catch up with her. Tianhuo was one of the fastest in their ranks. Meanwhile, she was barely able to keep up with the formation. But her commander had taken a pretty bad beating. She would have to stop at some point to take a breather, right?

At least, she sure hoped so...
 
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Chapter Five
To Become The Darkness
Part Two
Tianhuo laid there, unable to move, her face looking into the ground as her vision cam back to her. She heard nothing save a slight breeze that blew through the trees around her. She struggled to free herself but it was no use. Though, to her surprise, she felt no pain.

Her fruitless struggle continued for several moments until she finally heard Pam's voice. “Are you okay? The dog's an't hurting you, are they?” The fact that she was concerned, rather then gloating, bothered Tiahou deeply.

“Let go of me!” she demanded.

“Only if you agree to not roast our little lamb here.” Pam said, a clear smile in her voice.

“Wait, what?” Tianhuo looked up in surprise. There, at the edge of the clearing, sat a tiny ball of white wool. Tianhuo blinked a few times, causing the blur to come into focus.

It was tiny, white, fluffy, little ewe lamb, and it was scared to death.

“Pom, this is Tianhuo. Tianhuo, this is Pom.” Pam said, still holding Tianhuo's now numb leg, “Pom here is just a young little thing. She doesn't even have any puppies yet.”

“M-mom. What i-i-is that thing?!” the tiny ball of fluff asked in a quivering voice.

“She is your daughter? I-I am sor-” she tried to say it, but once again, she couldn't get it out. “I didn't know!”

Pam laughed a little. “No. She's not my daughter. But she's like a daughter. She, and sometimes her brother, come over to our home all of the time. We're practically half raising her! Though you didn't get to meet until now on account of her and her family being out of town for the past week or so.” she smiled, then turned to Pom. “In speaking of which, where is your brother?”

Pom peeled her terrified away from Tianhuo to answer Pam's question. Tianhuo, however, never did hear what Pom had said. You see, the look in little Pom's eyes had reminded her of a young longma from long ago....

She suddenly felt sick. She had vowed to never do such a thing ever again in her life, and yet, she had just done it. Her anger, mother's influence, they had taken control of her! No, that wasn't completely true. She had chosen to become angry. She had chosen to embrace it and act on it, but…

No. She had done nothing wrong. Not her. She had every reason to be proud of herself. She had nothing to apologize for. This was beyond her control. Mother was to blame. “You calm now?” Pam relaxed her grip slightly, allowing some feeling to return to Tianhuo's leg.

“Yes.” She relaxed her body and felt both Pam and her dogs release her legs. It took some time for her to get to her four hooves again. Whatever Pam did to her that knocked her out, did a number on her. Her limbs felt weak, and it took some effort to get her flame to come out. Still, she was able to stand, though a bit slowly. “What did you do to me?” she asked, looking at Pam who now stood next to the little ewe.

Tianhuo's jaw dropped. Pam looked horrible. Half of her wool was gone, and what was still there was pitch black and withered. To say nothing of what looked like burns on her skin and face. She looked around at the dogs. They too were missing hair and burnt, though for them it was mostly around their faces. Her heart dropped. No, not them. Not the sheep she had been so kind to her.

Pam shrugged. “I hit you right where I was hoping a pressure point would be. I don't know much about you longma, on account of you guys being the first I've ever really met, but I was hoping that you were built kinda the same as us sheep. Good thing I was right, eh?” she said with a half chuckle and a smirk.

Tiahou felt even worse. Not only had she just nearly injured a little ewe, she had been beaten by a sheep, and had even potentially given her serious injuries! Yet, she was laughing as though there was nothing wrong. Tianhuo stared at her in disbelief, “How? How can you stand there and laugh about this?”

Pam cocked her head to the side. “Huh? What do you mean?”

“I nearly took out your daughter and cooked you alive, and you're laughing?” Tiahou looked at her dumbfounded.

“Well, everything's fine, right? And she's not my daughter, technically.” Pam looked over at the ewe who was staring at her black wool.

Tianhuo shook her head. “No, it's not! Look at you! Look at your dogs! How are you standing? Are you not injured?”

Pam shook her head. “You really need to learn to relax. First off, I'm fine. Trust me, I've been through worse, and so have my dogs. A little fire like that isn't gonna be enough to hurt me bad. Perhaps your everyday sheep, sure, but I kinda have to be tougher then that, ya know? I mean, I wouldn't be doing this if I couldn't take a hit or two. So don't worry about me, are you okay? I mean, you really lost it there.”

Tianhuo was stunned. All her life she had been taught that combat was no laughing matter. If it was a duel, it was a thing of respect and deep honor. If it was defense, it was to be done as quickly as possible, but with as much restraint as needed to subdue the threat. If it was offense, one must take down their foe with speed and precision. There was no laughing, no kidding around. Combat was no joke. And yet, Pam was one step away from laughing herself. Not at Tianhuo's weakness, as had her peers and teachers had done, but because she was happy. There was no taunting, no mockery, nothing.

“I-I...” she was at a loss for words. What could she say? Her pride had taken one of the worst beatings it had ever received, and yet, she didn't feel bitter about it. She wanted to, she tried, but looking into Pam's face, she just couldn't. She looked down at Pom's face, which was no longer filled with terror. She was still a little scared, but in a slowly draining away kind of way.

“M-mom? What's going on? Are you okay?” the little ewe looked up at Pam, who winked at her.

“I'm fine sweetie. And Tianhuo here was just about to apologize.” Pam looked up at her and smiled sweetly.

Suddenly her head and heart filled with fire. “I-I,” she nearly shouted and dropped her head as her front hooves dug into the ground. “I WILL DO NO SUCH THING!” she shouted, flames firing out of her and filling the air around her. The leaves on the trees sounding the clearing caught fire and the whole place filled with an immense heat. Pom let out a horrified screech and ducked as Tianhuo launched herself from the ground and rocketed to the sky.

“What is your problem?!” Pam shouted up at her.

Tianhuo leveled herself and looked down at her. “I have nothing to apologize for! Nothing!” she shouted.

For the first time, she saw anger flash in Pam's eyes. “You know what your problem is? You've got too much pride in that hot head of yours! You keep that up, and one day it's gonna explode!” she shouted back, raising a protective leg in front of Pom.

“Pride? Why shouldn't I be proud? Do you know who I am? I'm one of the youngest officers in the Huoshan Empire! I take orders from the Grand General herself! I have rank! And I got there through grit, toughness, and skill! And you! You're just a lowly sheep! We were sent to protect you! And what right do you think you have telling me what I'm going to do? You know nothing!” she screamed, her flames burning furiously out of control.

“I know a lowly sheep kicked your sorry tail, Miss High-Ranking Officer.” Pam shot back at her.

It was right about then that Tianhuo's world turned to red. Her vision, her mind, everything was set on one thing: Destroy her. The Tianhuo that had befriended Pam was now gone, a distant memory in her now boiling mind. In her mind she heard the shouts of mother crying over and over: Hunt, Kill, EAT!

Something deep within her heart opened, and embraced it.

A terrible cry split the sky as Tianhuo let out a mighty roar that enveloped her in fire. Had she heard her own voice, she would have known that roar. It was the roar of a dragon.

“Pom! Get back!” Pam shouted and let out a sharp whistle. Not a moment later Pop's two dogs came bursting out of the trees, and all five dogs surrounded Pam, growling at the monster that now flew high in the air above their master.

Tianhuo didn't know what happened next. She knew there was fire. She knew that she was flying, and fast. She could feel the wind, and she felt a terrible impact. She could feel blow after blow after blow. Some of them were hers, and some were not. She felt no pain, nor any form of exhaustion. She could only feel one thing: a burning passion to destroy. She had no idea that she had sent one of the dogs flying. Nor had she any idea that another had been sent sprawling, unconscious, across the clearing. She had not the mind to see that Pam had been thrown against tree after tree, and still kept coming at her. She could not see that Pom had frozen, terror stricken, in place and that she had tired more then once to attack the little ewe. Pam had, time and time again, kicked her, knocked her out of the air, body-slammed her; but none of these things she felt. She only felt her fury, her anger; her hunger for meat. Nor did she know when she had finally set Pam ablaze. All she knew was when she was finally knocked from her rage after she had been tackled and severely pummeled by her own troops.

“Commander!” one of them cried, “Commander! Get a hold of yourself!” his voice was panicked, and filled with desperation. He smacked her in the head once more, finally clearing her mind of the rage that had so fully controlled it.

Tianhuo looked up at the young private that now stared down at her. “P-Private?” she said, dumbfounded. “W-what's the meaning of this?” she blinked a few times, a bit lost.

“Commander! You've come to your senses! Thank goodness! You'd gone berserk and nearly took out that sheep over there!” he, and the other three solders who had helped him, stood back as he pointed a hoof to his left.

“I, what?” she turned her head to the side, and her mouth dropped open in horror. She saw, lying there in a heap with four of the five dogs either missing or unconscious, was a charred and nearly broken Pam. Her breathing was labored and shaking. Pom stood near her, her eyes wide with fear, and on the verge of tears.

“M-mom?” she said, reaching a hoof out to touch her, causing Pam to flinch weakly.

“pom...” she said softly, but Tianhuo heard nothing else. Whether it was because Pam's voice had dropped too low to hear, or because of the sound of her troops helping her stand overwhelmed her voice, she didn't know.

Tiahnou stood there, jaw gaping. What... what happened?

“Commander?” Tianhuo turned to look at the young private, who was awaiting orders.

“I-I...” she started, as it all suddenly hit her all at once. Everything she had just done, her wounds, her actions, all of it. It hit her like a giant boulder crashing down a mountain, and she fell to her knees.

“Commander!” he said, panic once again rising in his voice.

Tianhuo looked over at Pam's ragged form, and saw Pom's eyes beginning to run with tears as the little ewe tried to nudge her. “I-I...” Tianhuo said, but her voice failed her.

“Get her home!” One of the other troops shouted. “Private, you stay with Commander Tianhuo.” the two remaining troops gave a salute, and flew over to Pam's meek form. Pom screamed, and turned to run, but stopped and looked at Pam as though she had said something. The one who spoke leaned down to look at Pom in the eye, “Do not worry little one. We are here to help. Lead us to your home, and we will take your mother there.” Two of the guards carefully picked her up, and turned to the little ewe expectantly. The lone remaining dog growled at them and nearly stopped them, but retreated at the last moment, as though she had been commanded to do so.

“Sir! What about the other dogs?” of the troops carrying Pam asked.

“I'll take one and...” the rest of the conversation was lost to Tianhuo, who's regret and shame had finally blotted out the world around her. It was as though a great weight had fallen upon her heart, and was crushing it. The world around her had grown dim, and the pain that her body felt paled in comparison to the weight she now bore. What had she done? What had SHE done?!

“Commander, are you alri-” the private began, but was cut off by Tianhuo suddenly shooting up into the air once more, and flying with terrible speed off into the sky. “COMMANDER!” he cried after her, but was it was no use. He was never going to catch up with her. She was one of the fastest in their ranks, and he was barely able to keep up with the formation. “Commander?” he looked looked up at where she was quickly vanishing into the horizon. He let out a heavy sigh. “Now what do I do? Should I follow her?” he looked around at the empty, and scorched, clearing. “Well, I guess I should follow orders. I hope she takes a rest at some point...” he beat his wings and took to the air. True he would never catch up to her, but she had taken a pretty bad beating. She would have to stop at some point to take a breather, right?

At least,he sure hoped so...
First off, this was a magnificent chapter. You're doing Fausticorn's work son. Really though, I'm enjoying this story immensely. I knew I made the right choice in backing out of writing the Battle story(ies). I like how Tian and Pom met each other before the events of TFH, really gives it a nice, rich, backstory that doesn't fail to entertain. Plus, anything Pom isjust my Kryptonite... Getting back on track! Keep it up man, it looks great so far, you know other than the 2-3 errors, but then again you did say you didn't have an editor, so it can be forgiven.
 
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OCisbestungulate

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First off, this was a magnificent chapter. You're doing Fausticorn's work son. Really though, I'm enjoying this story immensely. I knew I made the right choice in backing out of writing the Battle story(ies). I like how Tian and Pom met each other before the events of TFH, really gives it a nice, rich, backstory that doesn't fail to entertain. Plus, anything Pom isjust my Kryptonite... Getting back on track! Keep it up man, it looks great so far, you know other than the 2-3 errors, but then again you did say you didn't have an editor, so it can be forgiven.
Errors? Where? Like, real question: where are they? I clearly missed them. Also: Thanks. It's always encouraging to hear compliments. Goodness knows this stuff an't easy.
 

0Zero100

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Errors? Where? Like, real question: where are they? I clearly missed them. Also: Thanks. It's always encouraging to hear compliments. Goodness knows this stuff an't easy.
Give me some time, I have to re-read the story.
Welp, here ya go, Chapter Five.

Chapter Five
To Become The Darkness
Part One​

“Looks like you've gotten better. I have to give to ya, you longma are made of some pretty sturdy stuff.”
//// I have to give "IT" to ya...\\\

It had been almost week since she had woken up,
/// It had been almost "A" week...\\\

She had learned that the two of them had moved out the edge of The Meadow to get away from everysheep.
///She had learned that the two of them had moved out "TO" the edge...\\\

Luckily, his two dogs had no problem taking orders from Pam and thus helping her out when he couldn't.
///...and thus "HELPED" her out when he couldn't...\\\

Tianhuo's eye ticed.
///Tianhuo's eye "TWITCHED"...\\\
I edited your post within my post, sorry, didn't even know I could do that.
 
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Chapter Five
To Become The Darkness
Part Two

It was tiny, white, fluffy, little ewe lamb, and it was scared to death.
///It was "A" tiny, white, fluffy...\\\

Pom peeled her terrified away from Tianhuo to answer Pam's question.
///Pom peeled her terrified "???" away from Tianhuo...\\\
I'm sorrry you have to open these spoilers to view the errors I found, but it's the fastest way to do this. By the way, I think you only had like, 7, mistakes overall. And some of those you might disagree with me on whether or not they're mistakes. Specifically the description of Pom, wasn't too sure if that one was that way on purpose or not. Welp, hope I was of SOME help to you my man.
 
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OCisbestungulate

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Give me some time, I have to re-read the story.

I edited your post within my post, sorry, didn't even know I could do that.
I'm sorrry you have to open these spoilers to view the errors I found, but it's the fastest way to do this. By the way, I think you only had like, 7, mistakes overall. And some of those you might disagree with me on whether or not they're mistakes. Specifically the description of Pom, wasn't too sure if that one was that way on purpose or not. Welp, hope I was of SOME help to you my man.
Oh. Thanks for catching those. Most of those were legit mistakes that I missed. Only one was on purpose.
 

OCisbestungulate

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Have another villain chapter:


Chapter 6
To Feed The Darkness
Part One

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE BOOK FAILED?” He screamed as he slammed a hoof onto the table, causing the young fawn on the other side to flinch.

“I-It failed to corrupt the Unicorns.” she trembled.

“HOW? How is that possible?! That was a gift directly from the Masters! There is nothing, NOTHING, more powerful then they! No! You must be mistaken!” he shook his head and turned his back to her..

“I-I’m sorry, but there’s no mistake. The book, i-it’s…” she looked from side to side, looking for someone, anyone, to pin the blame on.

“It’s the perfect means of turning light magic into dark. I know this; I’ve seen its power with my own eyes. No unicorn could have resisted its power. Much like the other gifts the Masters entrusted us to give.” He shook his head as he gazed deeply into a shadowy corner of the small chamber they were in, fearing that what might be staring back, or listening. Their home had many such chambers. This one was part of a small network of them, all attached to a main hallway that led up some stairs to the Grand Chamber. Used both for housing, and training, they were perfect for private conversations like this one, and for their masters to watch them.

The fawn cleared her throat. “That’s just the problem, no unicorn ever opened it.”

He turned to face the fawn, then vanished in a wisp of darkness. Her eyes darted about the room, looking for him, then she turned her head around. “Explain to me what you mean.” He said, his voice coming from behind her turned head, and filled with anger. She jumped slightly as she faced forward again, and saw his face far too close to hers. She had never seen his face this clearly before. The mark of the Masters consumed half of his facial features. It stretched from his half missing ear, to the tip of his nostrils. It replaced his skin and his right eye. The other half was sickly looking, and bore far less hair then was natural. His one eye stared into her. It was filled with anger, but beyond that, she saw a great emptiness. It felt as though she were staring into a great void, and the void began staring back and even pulling at her. From the mark that covered the other half, an angry red glow began to emit from the edges of the black mark.

It took a moment for her courage to return to her. “I took the book to the unicorns as the Masters had commanded, and as expected, they refused to even acknowledge that I existed. I couldn’t get into their grove, and despite my best attempts, not a single one of the few unicorns I saw would even talk to me. However, when I told them of the book I carried, and that I had brought something that could corrupt them, they laughed at me.”

He growled slightly. “You told them that it would corrupt them?! What were you thinking?!”

“I was hoping that if I insulted their pride, or at least threatened their power, then they might at least look at it. But I was wrong.” She looked off to the side in shame.

“Yes. You failed. Yet you do not have the book, nor have you led a unicorn army to join our ranks. What happened?” he asked taking a step back, his expression shifting from fury to curiosity.

“One unicorn didn’t laugh at me. She came to me and said that she would take it. So, I gave it to her.” the fawn cast her eyes down, dreading what he would say when she would finally finish her tale.

“One took it? Who was she? What was she like? Why is she not with you?” he was rather curious. Could it be that the fawn was mistaken, and that it would simply take the book more time to do its work then he had expected?

She shook her head. “I don’t know. She never gave me her name, nor could I tell anything about her except that I think she was a little younger then the other unicorns, but I don’t know for sure.” She stepped back as a dark fire suddenly filled his eye. “I swear! I’m not holding anything back from you!”

“Continue…” he said, his voice low.

“A-after she took it, she invited me to her home. I-I tried to question her, but she wouldn’t say much. She just kept saying, ‘Let’s wait until we get to my house. I’d rather talk there.’ When we got there, she led me to her room and there I found another book upon her bed. It was…” she shuttered slightly at the memory, “It had the twisted skull of a horned creature on the front, and it glowed red. But it was a different red then our Masters. She placed the book next to this, thing, and left the room. I think she told me that she needed to grab something.” She then shuttered as memories came flooding back to her. “The moment she stepped out, her book flew open, and the air around me became filled with powerful dark magic. Then I heard a voice. It was more terrible then any I had ever heard! It said, ‘What is this, that thou bringest? Thou art a fool, to think that thou couldest compete with the likes of I! She has made the pact! And lo, there can only be one! And thou thinkest that she wouldst make another?’ Then, I saw from the book come a great claw that opened the book that I had brought. Then a deep laughter filled the room. ‘What is this? Art thou a patsy of the Predators? Come to make my friend a meat-eater? Oh thou fool! BEHOLD MY AWESOME POWER!’ Then from her book came another claw, and … and…” she faltered, fear filling her heart.

“We Hunters know no fear. SPEAK!” he roared.

“And the book tore the other to shreds! I saw the terrible power that the Master put into it burst forth, but again the voice simply laughed and with its claws, captured it, and ate it!”

“IT WHAT?” his fury came back once more, causing his mark to flare to life, and his skin to grow even more sickly.

“It ate the book! It ate everything! Its power, the pages, even the bindings! And it laughed!” she nearly shrieked.

“And…” he drew close to her once more, “What did you do?”

She froze. She should have fought the book. She should have thrown it into a fire. She should have done something, ANYTHING! “I-I ran…” she said with a trembling voice.

~

There was a long pause. For several moments, nothing moved, save the air from their breaths. Try as she might, she could not swallow the terror that filled her. Her knees began shaking and she found it harder and harder to stand.

“You fled?” he finally said, his voice level and calm, though his one eye burned hotter then before.

“I-I…” apologies, excuses, things she should have done; all of these began flying from her and replaced the dead silence that had filled the room.

He turned his head to the side, looking once more into a dark corner of the room. He nodded once, then turned back and cast his eye upon her. Though, it simply looked through her. He walked up to her, lightly pushed her to the side, walked out of the chamber, and slammed the door behind him.

She blinked several times. That had not gone as she had expected. Had he listened to her? Had he, perhaps, decided that what had happened was beyond her control, and that she was not to blame? She pulled at the door, but it did not move. She shook it a little, and heard the jingle of a metal lock.

She was locked in.

“Ziege? Are you there? Ziege? Am I forgiven? Ziege!?” she shouted.

She pressed her ear to the door, straining to hear anything, hoping to hear him say 'yes'. “You,” she heard him say, “take her to The Door. Her mind is of no use to us anymore.” She went numb. The world about her suddenly became distant, strange. The Door? Take her to The Door? She stumbled away from the door that blocked the chamber, her sense of balance failing. No, that must have been a mistake. She heard him wrong. She'd sworn herself to serve the Masters; she had forsaken her family, her friends. She had turned her back on everything she loved, and this is how it was all to end?

Her mind suddenly snapped back into reality as the door flew open and a large ram entered the room. “You come with me.” he said, his voice as empty as his eyes.

“NO!” she cried. She ran at him, her own symbol flaring to life as she felt strength fill her body. She slammed head-first into the ram, and sent him flying into the far wall. She ran into the hallway, and cast her eyes towards the exit. There, halfway up the stairs, stood Ziege. “Ziege!” she cried, “I left EVERYTHING for this, and I refuse to become one of these mindless beasts!” she pointed a hoof at the ram that had been knocked out from her blow.

He stopped his ascent, then slowly turned his head to left, exposing the symbol that so brazenly consumed half of his face. “The Masters have decreed you to be nothing more then prey. So you shall suffer the same fate as they.” he said, his disgust clear as a bell.

“I still feel their power! It flows through me!” she shouted back, taking a few defiant steps towards him. “If they thought I was just prey, wouldn't they take their power from me? But they didn't! I can still be of use! I've learned my lesson! Tell the Masters that I'm ready to do whatever they want! I'm not afraid anymore!”

“Do you not fear The Door? Is that not reason you struggle now? Your mind is tainted with fear, and is unfit. Thus, you are not longer a hunter, but now, the hunted.” he said, turning around to face her. “They hunger, and your mind will make for a fine feast”

“Then you'll have to do it yourself! I will not become some mindless puppet!” she shouted, taking another step forward. The symbol that burned upon her leg glowed with a bright light, and she felt her muscles fill with power.

He regarded her with a curious look. Then took a step, and vanished.

She smiled; she'd seen this trick before. She raised her hind-legs up, and delivered a powerful blow directly behind her. It was to her great satisfaction when she felt contact. That changed, however, when her legs refused to move. She turned her head to look, and saw her legs vanishing into a shadowy doorway. She yanked and yanked, but her legs refused to come out. She felt something wrap around them, and begin to slowly pull her in.

“Raw power is nothing without a will to use it. And even more meaningless without the mind to abuse it.” his voice came from behind her turned head once again, and she turned to see him once more too close for comfort. She swiped a hoof at him and almost struck his face. Her hoof, however, was stopped by barbed tendrils that shot forth from his mark. “You are a waste of time, begone.” he waved a hoof in the air, and she suddenly felt her back legs jerk violently into the door. She dug her other hoof into the ground, deeply gouging the stone floor, and halting her progress.

“NO!” she screamed, “NOT LIKE THIS!” she felt fear filling her heart, but suppressed it. She was not prey! She would be a hunter like the rest! The Masters' power still flowed through her, and she would use it for all it was worth. She put all of her strength into her one hoof, and dug even deeper, and pulled hard. A bit to her surprise, she yanked some of herself from the door. Not enough to free herself, but enough to make her smile at Ziege, and give her a boost of confidence. “Besides, how are you even going to get me to The Door? I think I've just proven that I'm stronger then you!”

His one good eye suddenly glowed a sickly green. “This was never a contest, and do you think the power of teleportation that the Masters gave me only works for me?” he grinned, ever so slightly, as he reached over to her grounded hoof, and ever so gently, pulled it out of the ground. She tried to force it out of his grasp, but couldn't even budge her own hoof. Her eyes suddenly went wide as the tendrils that bound her other leg detached themselves from his face and wrapped themselves around the leg he held, and bound both of them to her body. With no support holding her up, she fell and slammed, hard, into the ground.

“Wha-How?!” she cried.

“I am the Masters' tool. Through me they have taken your gift and will give it to another. Goodbye little foal. Goodbye, prey.” he smiled as he turned his back to her and made his way to the steps. She screamed after him, begging for mercy, begging for forgiveness, begging for anything as she felt herself get dragged into the doorway. The last thing she saw before her world went dark, was his smile as he vanished from view...
 
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OCisbestungulate

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Chapter 6
To Feed The Darkness
Part Two


“You seem to be in a good mood.” One of the cows said to him as he approached the covered cage that held their newest project.

“Oh? How can you tell?” he asked as he walked up to the thick veil covering it.

“You’re grinning from ear to ear for one thing.” The cow pointed out.

“Good music does that to an ungulate. Now then, how’s our little friend coming along?” he said, gently pawing at the veil.

“Well, unlike that other one who we had to throw into The Door, this one looks like it might actually stick. There's a lot of impressive anger with this one, and enough hate to cook a pie with!” She smiled excitedly.

“Cook a pie?” he said, giving her an unamused glare.

She nodded. “Yep! Cook a pie! A hate-pie!” She smiled all the harder.

He sighed, then looked up at the veil once more. “Can I remove the cover yet?”

She put a hoof to her chin. “Hum. Well, it’s been almost two weeks now. I’d say it’s likely, though possibly a little early. Oh! That reminds me! New orders from the top!” she turned and looked at him, smiling.

“Is that so?” he asked, raising an eyebrow as he regarded her. It was common enough for him to receive orders through others, but the fact that this cow was giving them to him annoyed him slightly.

She nodded. “Apparently, you're to head back to The Meadow to pick up some new recruits.”

“Am I to go alone?” he asked. He didn't fancy the idea after what happened last time he went alone, but if it was the will of the Masters, so be it.

“Hum… No, I don't think so. At least the orders didn't say anything about you going alone.” the cow shrugged.

He smiled. “Good.” then her turned once more to the cage, “Very good. Then I'll take our newest project here, as well a few others with me. Did the orders say anything else?”

She shook her head once more. “Nope. Just that you would need to leave soon, as the window for getting these recruits would be very small. Oh! And that the window for doing it would come very, very soon.”

“I see. Very well then.” He reached forward and grabbed the veil with his teeth, and pulled. The veil fell away, unveiling the cage, and the creature that lay trapped within. It stirred, then stood and looked at him. It was larger than he was, and it looked much like a horse. It had scales rather then hair; scales the color of obsidian. Its eyes burned with crimson fire, and deep hatred. Ziege smiled. Upon its forehead burned the very mark he bore, bright and angry. “I see that unlike your kin, you’ve embraced our call. Tell me, what shall we call you?”

The beast looked at him, then at her. “You may call me…” it said in a deep, rumbling voice, “You may call me, Zhou…”
 
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OCisbestungulate

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Chapter 7
To Feel The Darkness

They came swiftly. There was no time to react, and no time to defend. They crashed through the outer walls as though they were paper. They swarmed over the few sentries that stood guard, and came to the door with silence and speed. When the door was ripped off its hinges, those inside were caught unawares, and swiftly subuded. Now unchalleneged, they took their prize, and left swiftly. So swift was their attack that they had, in their haste, overlooked one little ewe. A little ewe that had fled as fast as her little legs could carry her.

And she was not alone...

~

Tianhuo wept. She cared not that her pride begged her to stop. She headed not the voice in her mind telling her that all was not her fault. No, the voice that rang loudest was Honored Mother's, which laughed, and laughed. It laughed at her, it laughed at her pain, it laughed at her weakness. It laughed at all that was her.

And why shouldn't she? Tianhuo had betrayed her friend. She had let the rage and the anger take control. She had been weak, and had let the predator in her take control. For all she knew, Pam would never recover, or worse. Over and over she had played out that scene in her head. Over and over she hated herself more and more for what she had done. More and more, she found herself doubting everything she had become.

It was in the deepest depths of her despair that the young private found her. Tianhuo had nearly crashed into a small gully, where she had begun sobbing uncontrollably. The private approached her slowly, unsure what to say.

"Commander?" she said softly. Tianhuo didn't respond, for she had no idea there was someone there. "Uh, commander?"

She had failed. Her troops were gone. Her friend might as well be gone. And she herself deserved to be gone. She was finished.

"Hey, commander?" a soft voice said, nearly getting through.

Why? What did she do wrong? Where had she gone wrong?

"Look, I, uh..."

It was all her fault. She had screwed it all up. She wasn't strong enough.

"...I'm not very good at this, but..."

She was worthless...

"..."

She should just dissappea-her thoughts were interrupted by the feeling of something touching her back over and over. She cast her head up and saw, much to her suprise (and a bit to her horror) one of her young troops patting her on the back. "P-Private!" she said, scrambling to her hooves, "W-what are you doing here?" she cast her gaze left and right, looking to see if there was anyone else.

"I-uh..." it was clear the young private hadn't thought this far ahead. "Well, I followed after you, Sir. I need to know what your orders are."

"You came after me for orders?" Tianhuo was very suprised. She knew that her people were loyal to a fault, but this was something else. "Even after what I did?"

The private swallowed hard. "Well, uh, I mean, yeah."

"But I'll just get you captured, or worse!" Tianhuo objected.

"Well, I mean, true I haven't served under you for too long, Sir, but I'd follow you to The Hold and back." she saluted meekly.

"Why?" Tianhuo simply couldn't understand it.

"Well, because you're kinda nice. I mean, sure your stubborn, and proud, and full of yourself, and can get kinda heated sometimes, but that's not you, ya know?" she said, scratching her head. "Er, uh, permission to speak freely, Sir?" she asked, looking Tianhuo in the eyes.

Tianhuo blinked a few times, then nodded. "Permission granted."

"Well, I mean, I saw you fighting that thing. You were doing everything you could to get to us, right? And after you recovered, you spent each day training so you could save everyone else, right? I mean, I might be kinda new, but I don't know many commanders who'd do that. Like, most that I've heard of would just call it a failed mission and head home, ya know? But you're still here, right?" she smiled slightly.

"Well, it just seemed like what I should do." Tianhuo said quietly.

"See? That's what I'm taking about! I can tell, you really care about us." she pointed a hoof at her.

Tianhuo shook her head. "I was just doing my duty. Any commander would do that."

This time, the private shook her head. "I don't think either of those guys that came with you would have done that."

Tianhuo sat up and glared at her. "Do not speak ill of your commanding officers."

She backed up a little."Uh, sorry. But it's true ya know? I don't mean to say nothin' about them, but I get the feeling that they wouldn't stick around, but you did." she said, nodding.

Tianhuo wanted to chastise her again, but she had a point. Zhou would have simply headed home and the other one would have likely done the same thing, after staying for a day or two. Still.... She shook her head. "No, I'm too dangerous. I can't be trusted."

"I trust you." she smiled.

"Why?"

"Because that wasn't you. I don't know what that was exactly, but that wasn't the Commander Tianhuo I know. And the commander I know does what she can to make things right." the young private stood tall and slauted yet again.

Tianhuo's mind flashed back to a younger age. A time when all she cared about was being powerful. She thought of a little one she had hurt, and the pain in her eyes. Then her mind shifted to a different memory. She remembered when she had learned of her great parents, and the struggle in her heart. She remembered seeing the little one once more. She had asked for her forgivness, and...

Tianhuo stood, whiping the tears from her eyes. "Private," she paused for a moment, for her pride tried one final time to stop her from uttering those words she had said so long ago, "will you forgive me?" she asked, humbly bowing her head.

It was not a moment later when she felt the touch of the private's nose to hers.

Suddenly, her heart felt as though a great darkness had been lifted. She felt a peace and a warmth she had not felt in many years. She felt, happy. Happy to have finally said the very words her stubborn pride had refused to let her speak for so long.

"Thank you Private. Thank you..." she said, lifting her head up.

"Your Welcome, Commander. But I don't think it's just me you should be apologizing to." she responded with a warm smile.

Tianhuo nodded. "You're right. I need to apologize to-"

"MOMMY!" a shrill cry broke through the air as a large dog suddenly jumped over their heads, then landed in the gully behind them. On its back, clucthing for dear life, was a tiny ewe. "THEY TOOK MOMMY!" it cried, its tears of terror and sorrow peirceing Tianhuo's heart. This was her fau-

No. No, she was done blaming herself. She was done sobbing and moping about the past. She stood up tall, and looked back towards The Meadow, determination filling her heart. She nodded, then turned back to look at Pom. "Who, and where did they go?"

"T-the shadows! They broke in, and took her! Daddy's hurt! He said to find you!" she cried, her eyes filled with fear as she spoke to Tianhuo.

"Alright. Take me to him. We'll save mommy, I promise. So don't worry." Tianhuo smiled. "So, let's go talk to Pop and see what we can do." she smiled, then took to the air. Yes. Now was not the time to feel sorry for herself. Now was the time to take action. The time to set things right...

Surprise! The story isn't dead! Just on a slight hiatus for totally mysterious reasons.

Also:
Please don't mind the errors, I'm running without a proof-reader, so they're bound to come up.
 
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OCisbestungulate

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Oh. It seems I quad posted. Well, uh, have something to read while I go make some friends to break up this chain with...


Chapter 8
To be Betrayed by The Darkness
General Tzao suddenly shook as she approached her chambers. A cold chill had run down her spine, and that never bode well. She paused for a moment, thinking of what could have been the source of it. She shook her head. There were too many things that could have gone wrong to be able to pinpoint what it could have been. It could have been a patrol gone awry, or an accident on the training grounds, or any other number of things. Still, she shouldn't let her guard down. She learned many years ago to pay heed to those hunches of hers.

She entered the chamber, and undid one of the buckles that held her chest-plate together. She needed to change quickly, for she was due for a formal audience with the Empress in 5 minutes. She had been on the training grounds working with some new recruits, and thus needed to change into her formal battle armor. She undid another strap as she felt a familiar darkness pass over her. She snapped her head up and looked over at her chest.

In there she kept her various important possessions. Family trinkets, old medals, an evil scroll made of a material she'd rather not think about; totally normal things. She walked over to it as she undid yet another buckle. She had to pause just before she opened it, as she had to finish removing her chest-plate before her front legs were free. Once removed, she put a hoof on the lock that held the chest shut. She closed her eyes for a moment, and then gently bowed her head, recovered her hoof, and breathed a gentle fire into the lock. It clicked loudly, and fell away from the chest, which popped open. She placed a hoof on the lid, and pushed it open.

There, lying on top of her old uniform, was the scroll she had been given by the Empress herself. She recalled the meeting in which the two of them had gone off into a private room. There, the Empress had told her a disturbing truth that she wanted few others to know about until the time was right. There, she had told her that the ancient legends were true, and that the seal which held the terrible predators was beginning to wear away. She had told her that she needed a champion for their people. A champion who could find the ancient key of the Bearded Prophet, and seal the terrible predators away once more. She told her that she would have sent her to find it, but that she knew that Sun, while mentally up to the task, was no longer physically able to do it. Thus, their people would need a new champion. Someone strong of mind and body. Someone bold, brave, and with a heart full of honor and pride.

Someone, like Tianhuo.

Sun had done a double-take when The Empress had said that. Tianhuo? She was only a sub-captain at the time, and while her career had been impressive thus far, she was a far cry from being ready for something like this! However, The Empress had reassured her that Tianhuo was the right choice, and that when the time was right, that this scroll would be the thing that would finally give her the push she needed to finally become the champion that they would all need.

The very same scroll that now pulsed with darkness. Had The Empress known that this was an artifact of evil? Who had given it to her? Did she know who was on the other side? There were many questions that Sun wanted to ask her Empress, but there was never time nor place to do so. Overtime she communicated several times with it, and each time it spent too much time taunting her and trying to get her to leave her Empress. Nevertheless, it had proven surprisingly useful. Whoever was on the other side, seemed to know well the activities of the Predators and their servants, and was very free in giving this information to them. Not once yet had it been wrong, but she had decided to never trust it. She trusted the information it gave, but she would never allow herself to lower her guard around it.

She lifted it out of the chest, and placed it in her mouth. She walked over to her empty desk, and laid it out. Its face was blank, though its borders seethed a dark energy that drifted slowly to the floor and sank into the cracks. “What do you want?” she asked impatiently.

“In a hurry?” the voice replied as the surface of the scroll turned black and two red eyes appeared on the dark surface.

“Yes actually. I must meet with my Empress in 3 minutes. Get to the point.” she was irritated that now was the time of all times for this thing to call to her. As it was, it must be important.

“Fine. I'll get to the point. You've been played.” the eyes narrowed in a sinister smile.

“Explain.” she retorted, her sense of danger suddenly rising.

“It was a trap. It was all a trap. You see, there was a little ambush waiting for your troops, all of whom perished. All of them, save one.” the voice laughed.

Sun knew better then let this thing under her scales. Though what it said angered her, she knew better then to let that control her actions. “And who is it?” she said calmly.

“Your little prodigy. She's quite the spunky one you see. Managed to escape with little more then a good thrashing.” whoever, or whatever, was speaking was clearly enjoying themselves.

“And why are you telling me this?” she asked. The moment those words left her lips, she suddenly felt as though she knew the answer.

“Because the time has come to spring our little trap. You see, we very much wanted to help you get your champion, but it wasn't to help you seal the door. Oh no. You see, how do you think she will feel when she returns home to nothing more then a smoking crater? I know that if I was her, I would feel nothing but endless rage, and an overpowering desire for vengeance!

“You wouldn't dare...” she growled.

“Me? Oh no, not me. Though, I might be tempted. After all, just how many experienced troops do you have at your little home right now? Humm?” she could hear the growing sense of hubris in its voice.

“More then enough to deal with whatever you could possibly throw at us. If you come here, we, the Noble Longma of Houshan, will destroy you.” she picked up her chest-plate once more, and began putting it on.

“Good. Very good...” she heard a low laugh from the scroll as its eyes narrowed even further. “Destruction is what we want. After she sees what's left of her home, her rage will finally consume her, and then she will finally become the Predator she was always meant to be.”

“Everything you put her through to make her more powerful, you did so that you could one day turn her into a meat-eater.” Sun shook her head. “You underestimate the heart of us Longma.”

“Oh, I think you underestimate just how convincing we can be. Do you remember how I said there was only one sur-”

“There were several, and they serve you now. That's it, right?” she buckled the first strap into place.

“And soon, I think there shall be several more.” the voice cackled.

“No.” she said firmly. “You have made a foolish move and exposed yourself. Now we shall have time to defend ourselves.” she said, buckling the second strap into place.

“No, my dear, loyal general. No you will not.” the eyes vanished, and the entire scroll was suddenly engulfed in dark flames.

Sun never did get that last strap buckled, for she had struck the scroll off the table, and wreathed it in fire. She took a step back, and in a moment that felt much longer then it was, the twin flames coalesced and merged. They rose from the scroll, expanded into a large figure, and then exploded out from it. Everything in her chambers was blown to the walls, and even the general herself was shoved back a hoof or two. She threw herself into a defensive stance as a dark figure took the shape of a Longma looked to be made of obsidian, and then spoke.

“General Tzao.” it said. She knew that voice.

“Zhou...” she growled.

“That will be the last word you ever speak...”

And with that, he lunged at her.

So, given what I've seen of other fanfics on this forum, I'm now fairly tempted to have this whole thing become many shades darker and more violent. But, I said that this would be family-friendly, and family-friendly it shall stay!
...
Depending on how one interprets that...
 
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0Zero100

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I'll break the chain by saying that is was a pleasure to help check this chapter for errors and make small corrections here and there. Good job! Have a Father's Day cake.
 
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OCisbestungulate

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Slow updates are slow, but at least they happen, yes?

Chapter 9
To Meet The Darkness
If she had been able to, Tianhuo would have flown faster than she had ever flown before. Her desire to save Pam and Pop grew more and more intense as she, Pom, and the others closed the distance to their home. Though, in Pop's dogs defense, they ran quite fast. Not her top speed, but fast enough that she felt that no time was being wasted. Though, perhaps it was just as well that their speed was less then she wanted.

Some distance below her, the tiny ewe was riding on the back of one of the dogs with the young private flying alongside her attempting to console her. Tianhuo was not the best at such things, so she was all too happy when the young private had asked for permission to help Pom. Tianhuo did not know if she and Pom would ever cross paths again, but if they did, she would not be surprised if the little ewe did not remember her. To the tiny mind of a young sheep, much of what happened must have been traumatic. Though, if she had to be honest, this whole thing wasn't sitting well with her either.

Still, she had a mission to fulfill, and she had suffered the consequences of her foolish pride enough. No matter what awaited them back at Pam and Pop's home, she would not allow herself to feel such terrible rage ever again. When the home came into view, however, her new resolve was severely tested.

The Meadow could be broadly described as many wide open plains with occasional rivers, clumps of trees, and flowers all about (if one did not consider the various towns, villages, and occasional small city that dotted the landscape). The border in which Pam and Pop made their home was in a small forest that looked much like a crescent moon, that was now on fire. Tianhuo recoiled with the thought that she had done this, but stopped when she sensed something strange about the fire.

It wasn't natural. In fact, as they drew closer, she saw that the flames themselves were off in their color. The reds were too intense, and the shadows and smoke were too deep. She didn't exactly know what was going on, but she knew they had to act quickly.

“POM!” she cried, looking down at the little lamb. “I'm going in! Stay here! Private, stay with Pom!”

She looked up, a bit surprised. “But S-”

“That's an order!” she commanded, then dove head first into the inferno.

Their home was hidden from the air, so she had to enter the woods to find it. As she closed the distance, she was shocked when a wave of heat hit her. Normally, Longma felt little, if any, heat from fires. It wasn't enough to slow her down, but then again, little could have at this point. She plunged into the inferno and wove between the burning trees and dodged the flaming debris that fell all around her. It was hot. It was all so very hot.

As she rounded an old stump that stood near their home, something flew directly at her. Had she not been so focused on avoiding things, it would have hit her directly. She jerked to the side, dodging it, and turned to see what had lunged at her.

It was a cow; a young bull to be exact. He stood somewhat shorter than his folk, with a slightly lean build. He lowered his head, bearing his horns, and lunged at her again. She easily dodged his clumsy attack. He smashed head first into a burning trunk, causing him to become encased in fire, though the flames did not burn him. They wrapped around him, but did not touch him. He yanked his head out and turned to her once more, locking his gaze with hers.

His eyes were completely blank.

Tianhuo almost did a double-take. How could his eyes be completely blank? She stared at him for a moment, until something else caught her attention. There, boldly branded on one of his horns, was a dark symbol. It glowed brightly, and she saw that the flames that surrounded the bull flowed around him, and into the symbol.

He charged yet again. She shouted over the roar of the flames as she deflected his attack, “Who, or what, are you?!” she asked, “Did you do this?!” The bull looked up at her, his expression as blank as an empty sky. His jaw slacked a little, then he swung his head at her. She grabbed his horns and with an easy motion, she yanked him off his hooves and onto his back. She offered him a quick apology as she kicked him in the head with a hoof, and knocked him out. Now the question was, what to do with him? She couldn't just leave him there, nor could she linger. She cast a quick glimpse around. There! Under that large rock should be safe enough for the moment! She grabbed the unconscious cow, and tucked him into a small ditch that ran slightly under the rock. 'There,' she thought to herself, 'he should be safe enough from falling trees here.' She turned her attention back to the task at hoof, and flew around the stump again.

She let out a roar of fury as the small hut came into view. Or, what was left of it.

It was little more than a smoldering ruin at this point. Blackened and scorched earth marked the location of where their home had once stood. Not even a wall was left standing. The only thing that remained were two large black lumps, and a shrouded figure that stood in the center of it all.

Tianhuo's first instinct was to charge it, but she held herself in check. She'd already caused enough damage by acting recklessly.

“How strange. I had expected a more, exciting, response.” came a low, gravelly voice that reverberated through the air. She could hear a grin in it, and some disappointment. “Are you sure you don't want to att-”

“Who are you? What did you do?!” Tianhuo demanded.

The figure turned and faced her. It was completely covered in a large dark cloak, but through the darkness that filled its cowl, she saw an eye burning in the darkness that stared at her. It stared at her with a gaze of obsession. The kind of obsession that only those who's mind was forever lost could posses. It darted slightly around, but she never felt that it stopped staring at her. Next to it, half-concealed by the cowl, was the very same mark that the young bull had on its horn.

The figure shook its head, “You longma are all the same. You can never let an ungulate finish a sente-”

“Talk, or I WILL bring you down!” Tianhuo pointed a hoof at the figure as her flames flared.

It sighed. “No disrepute, but that's not possible. Not right now anyway. Nevertheless, I'll talk. I'll do all the talking you could ask for.” she swore she could hear it smile from ear to ear as it said that.

“Where is Pop, and what did you do with Pam?” Tianhuo narrowed her eyes.

“I fear I simply don't know anything about your father.” she heard it chuckle, causing her flames to flare once more. “I'll be honest, I don't know those names. Who would they be?” it asked.

What angered Tianhuo all the more was not that it was taunting and mocking her, but that she could hear in its voice that it truly didn't know who she was talking about. “The two sheep that lived here. What did you do to them?” she growled, barely keeping herself in check.

“Oh, those two? Well...” it tilted its head back as though to gaze into the burning sky, “The female has been, relocated, and the male,” it brought its head back down, then turned it sharply to the left, “I last saw under that pile there.” It nodded towards one of the piles, that sifted slightly.

Tianhuo glanced over at it, but was unphased. Judging from this thing's personality, it more than likely wanted to see her scream and run to his aid. Pop, however, was tough enough in his own right. Not the battle-hardened vet that his wife was, but he could take a hit or two if need be. So, it was to its great surprise when she simply glanced at the pile, then back at it. “And who are you?'

“This is a great surprise!” it took a step back, “What happened to all of that uncontrollable anger? What happened to all of that burning passion? Did you become weak while I was away? Weak, and soft?

“While you were away? What do you mean?” Tianhuo began searching through her memory. Had she met this thing before? Wait…

“Do you not remember me? Did The Raptor devastate you so thoroughly that you lost all memory of that day?” the figure took a step forward. Then it clicked. She recognized the voice. It was the same voice from when she and her troops were attacked.

“You!” she cried, raising up on her rear hooves and then slamming down upon them. “You were the one who took my troops from me!”

She felt it grin. “Indeed I was. And indeed I am. If there's one thing I have to say about you longma, it's that you make fine troops. The finest I've ever seen.” it laughed.

“We are warriors. There is no one better than us.” she said resolutely. “Where are they?”

“Back at base, awaiting the call for battle!” it shouted, full of glee.

“Back at base? You can't mean they serve you now. That's not possible. They would never betray Houshan!” Tianhuo shook her head.

“They had little choice in the matter. Well, most of them anyway. There was one who was all too willing to help us. You see, not all of them are as loyal as you wish they were!it cackled.

A tree collapsed and fell into the small clearing in which they found themselves. “You waste my time with riddles and half-truths. Where. Are. My. Friends?!” she demanded, her hooves digging into the ground.

This time, she saw a wide smile crack through the darkness of its cowl. “Riddles you say? Very well. I will answer your question with this: Before the sun will rise, lava will burn, and the dragon will feast!” the whole figure began to quake and tremble. “And to answer your question:” from under the long cloak, a sickly and bony-thin hoofed leg rose up to the cowl, and with a sudden jerk, pulled it off.

The dark shroud that concealed its shape suddenly disbursed and there, standing before her, was the most desiccated, hideous, and malnourished he-goat she had ever seen. He was almost hairless, save the few patches that still clung to his greyish skin. His beard was filthy, and nearly gone. His left horn was scarred and was missing small pieces here and there. His face was little better, with only half of it being even remotely normal, and his one eye twitched nearly constantly. Dominating the right side of his face was a massive mark that replaced his right horn, ear, and eye. It stretched from the back of his head to his nose. It was black, and burned with a crimson border.

“The Masters have honored me with the name: Verlier Ziege!” his voice reached a fervor pitch as he threw his head back, stood on his hind legs, and thrust his forelegs into the air. “I am Ziege! Puppet, servant, and slave to the dread Masters! Oh to speak of them! To think of the day when The Door shall be opened and all will run in fear from their endless hunger!” he threw his head forward to look at her again, “And we who bear their mark will throw open The Door, and pave their path into this world! And when they come, THEY, WILL, FEAST!!!”

His voice filled the whole of the clearing, and finally caused Tianhuo's patience to snap. Flames erupted from her as she charged him at full speed. He looked at her, and grinned as shadows suddenly engulfed him. Then he vanished. She stopped just short of where he had been, then flew over to the pile that buried Pop. “Pop! Are you okay? Hold on!” she shouted as she began to dig furiouslly at the pile.

“Oh, I'm fine, oh fiery one...” came a voice from the pile that was not Pop's. She jumped back, and took up a defensive stance. The pile rumbled, then fell away as a blackened and scorched ram stood from it. Its head hung low. “Perfectly … FINE!” Its head jerked up, and Tianhuo saw Pop's face, charred black, and burning brightly with that horrible symbol. He lunged forward, and charged at Tiahnou. Just before he slammed into her, she saw his eyes.

They were completely empty...

EDIT:
When I had begun writing this whole story, the Goat Cult was still brand new, and the fact that my very evil RP OC was a goat was supposed to be a big surprise and/or meta plot twist, as I had planned on writing the reveal before revealing my OCs race in the forums. Oh well. /shrug Such is life.
 
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