Along the way to the center of the prairie they did come across a few more horses. These stallions were a bit older and seemed to be using the prairie dogs to train their instincts to become stronger. It was probably the best way for them to get strong enough to lead a herd of their own, but it was also extremely dangerous. A couple of times they had come across a few bloody holes in the ground which probably were the locations where a horse was killed by a prairie dog with all of its remains either being eaten or dragged underground. It looked like a horrible way to go.
Lilly nearly threw up at the thought of how those horses died and seemed to be even more disgusted by the prairie dog than before. Joshua was certain that she wasn't going to let a single one of the things go from now on and he'd probably have to keep from going all over the prairie hunting them down. Of course she knew it was a natural part of the ecosystem for the zone, but she still found it all disturbing.
One time they came across the left over corpse of one of the prairie dogs with tons of hove like marks on its body. Apparently that one had gone up against a more experienced stallion that was strong enough to take the thing on. Joshua imagined it was probably a merit for the horses to be able to take down a prairie dog and was most likely the point in their exile where they decided if they were strong enough to protect a large herd. Smaller herds could probably out run the creatures since all of the horses would be young and full of energy.
The prairie dogs weren't exactly stealthy and could be seen coming from a mile away so a small herd could stick together and just outrun it especially if they went towards an area that didn't have to many hills they had to get over. On the other hand larger herds would consist of both horses that were too young to out run a large beast like the prairie dog and pregnant horses that were too slow. Those types of herds would need a stallion strong enough to take the danger out on its own. That was probably why young stallions continued to test themselves out against prairie dogs on their own. The horses were smarter than the ugly things in general so as long as they were careful they could survive the challenge, but sometimes the more brave ones might bite off more than they could chew.
Now that Joshua had a fairly decent idea of how things worked in the prairie he started to see what was going on. He also wondered why the stallions didn't just work together. He knew animals could be territorial and all, but honestly the horses would probably dominate most of the prairie if they just worked together most of the time. Sadly that wasn't the case, but the ones they tamed would be made to think working together would be better for them. He didn't want to see them fighting over territory in the stables let alone out in the wild.
Eventually they came across another horse that was in trouble and Lilly was already rushing to aid it before Joshua could even say anything. Luckily she was on the back of Cinder so he didn't really need to worry all that much and just followed along. This time around the horse had two of the prairie dogs following it and it seemed to have a sprained ankle considering how slow it was moving. When Joshua observed it he noticed that it had three stars by its name and was already level forty-eight so it was probably strong enough to take on one of the prairie dogs on its own if it wanted to. It seemed like it was unfortunate enough to attract two of them and probably injured itself while running away. Maybe one of the holes spread all over the grasslands injured it and the pair of prairie dogs had just gotten lucky. Based off of how stupid they were that was most likely what happened.
Before the pair of abominations could lunge at the horse and try to take it down, Lilly had Cinder create a wall of flames in their path that was so hot it melted a small trench into the ground and forced the two creatures to stop their chase. The horse seemed surprised by this, but kept running so Lilly caught up to it with Cinder and quickly tamed it. By the time the horse was safe in her soul realm the two prairie dogs had popped out of the ground and were screaming at her. They went around the flames and started charging towards her again, but Joshua was prepared for that. He leapt into the air with his aura flaring to full strength then he put all the weight behind his swing with his scale blade. He created a massive crater in their path and forced them both out of the ground. The shockwave from the attack even seemed to disorient them a bit, but they got right back up and started charging towards Joshua this time.
That was when Joshua saw Jade jump out of Lilly's shadow and dive into one of the creature's shadows before it could go underground once again. He watched as Jade bound the large prairie dog in place and decided to kill off the other one while the cat kept its trapped target at bay. Before the other prairie dog could dive back underground Joshua sent an energy slash at its face and cut straight into its eyes. It screamed and fell backwards giving Joshua another opening. He lunged forward and cut down the creatures belly bisecting it. Soon most of its guts were spilling out and it was slowly dying without being able to put up much of a fight.
Joshua heard a scream coming from the other prairie dog and could see that Jade was busy cutting deep into the creature all over with her three tails. There were slash marks everywhere you could look and the poor thing was stuck unable to move since it was having so much trouble trying to break Jades binding. With its last ounce of strength it was finally able to break free, but that's when two tails formed drills and dug straight through the creatures eyes and went deep into its brain killing it instantly. Its body fell over with a loud thud and the area once again went quiet with the breeze against the grass being the only noise around.
"Well, I knew Jade would be strong, but I didn't think she'd be that powerful right away. She's like a devastating little parasite that latches on to you and tears you apart." Joshua said with a smile as Jade finally came out of the creatures shadow and leaped back into Lilly's.
"Hey don't compare my beautiful cat to a parasite." Lilly said with a pout. "She's not some disgusting thing like that."
"Sorry, sorry. Either way she's going to be a powerful ally to have on our side going forward? Next time we need to check and see how well she does while strengthening one of us during a battle." Joshua said with his arms raised to show he didn't mean any harm by his words. After a short breather they started heading towards the center of the prairie once again. This time around they stopped running into horses though which meant they were probably starting to get close to the home base of the prairie dogs. Even though the horses wanted to challenge themselves they weren't stupid enough to come this far in and just get surrounded by the things.
After climbing to the top of a rather big hill Joshua was finally able to get a good view of the center of the prairie and right away he found what he was looking for. At the center of the area ahead there was a large hill in the middle that had what looked like an entrance at the base of it. It was similar to the dungeon back in the dog territory and it had a statue of what looked like one of those ugly prairie dogs on one side. On the other it had what looked like a magnificent horse trying to fend it off. Form what Joshua could tell from the statues he figured there might be a combination of both creatures inside the dungeon in some way, but they weren't on good terms with each other.
Before he could even think of going into the entrance of the dungeon though he was going to have to deal with another big problem that was staring him directly in the face at the moment. There were holes all over the place in front of the dungeon and from on top of the hill he could already see over ten prairie dogs moving around. He would be surprised if that was all of them if he had to go by the amount of holes he was seeing though. In all likelihood these were the guards to the entrance of the dungeon and they were going to have to get rid of them if they wanted to get in to the entrance to the dungeon.
"Well how do you think we should handle this? There seems to be a lot of them over there." Lilly said while observing the area. "Honestly I don't mind killing them all before heading inside the dungeon. They're in the way anyways." Joshua looked at Lilly weirdly because of that comment and he could even feel a bit of killing intent leaking from her. Clearly she hated these creatures and seemed to have marked them down as being as bad as the haze creatures in her head.
"Well we'll clear them out first then take a quick breather before heading into the dungeon. Instead of trying to take them out one at a time it would be best to draw them all out and take care of them together in one big attack. Luckily we've recently got the perfect skills to do just that." Joshua said with a smile before explaining to Lilly how things were going to go. She smiled at his idea before they both got to work. Lilly got on to the back of Cinder as she started circling around the area without making too much noise. The large spider started setting up fire pyre traps all over the place while making sure to block any path of retreat the things could try to take.
Joshua on the other hand had Tank on his shoulders and let his aura shroud cover him. He got close of enough to where he could blink to the spot he wanted to go then he leapt into the air and blasted himself up even higher so that he'd have as much momentum as possible for his next move. He then took out his scale blade as he started to fall to the ground. Tank hung on tightly as Joshua started to spin, then just before he hit the ground he swung his scale blade as harshly as possible causing a large earthquake like situation that knocked all of the prairie dogs off balance and forced some others out of the ground all together.
Now that he had gotten all of their attention they started to charge over in anger, but he used his reset ability to once again blink out of the middle of the crater leaving them all stunned. This time around he left them a present though as Tank stood in the center and grew to his full size towering over all of the creatures that were now stunned. Before they could try to attack their new enemy Tank withdrew into his shell and started spinning as water began to pour out from inside the shell in every direction. The large group of prairie dogs got trapped in the sudden flood and couldn't try to get back into the ground since the water was constantly swirling them around.
Soon they were all trapped in a massive whirlpool and they were finding it hard to survive in it, but that wasn't the end. The moment the whirlpool was in full effect Cinder set off her fire pyres and the entire area started to steam as the water boiled to a searing temperature. The prairie dogs were being cooked alive until they died while Tank was just fine in the center. He kept pouring out cool water around his body to keep any of the hot water from harming him. After a few minutes the water started to drain into the ground through all the holes in the area and Joshua was able see all of the dead prairie dogs with scalded skin that was filled with blisters. Some of them died from drowning while others were burnt to death. In the end they were all dead and it was time to check out the dungeon.