The Ambassador's Son - Book 2
An MLP:FiM Fanfiction by Midnight Shadow
Sharptooth stood before the black dragon's cave. It was, unsurprisingly for this part of Equestria, raining. His wings were tired, he was hungry and it was growing dark. He was also wet and cold, and very nervous.
For the first time, he had made the trip alone. He had sent no word ahead and he had not discussed his intentions, other than to tell his pony-mother where he was going. Now, standing outside the cave of a creature several times his weight, many times his strength and an unknown number of times his age, he wasn't sure if it had been such a good idea.
"I see the foal has learned the use of his own limbs," cried the thunderous voice of Onyxious from above him.
Sharptooth hissed in surprise, falling back. In the faltering light, the great wyrm had been almost invisible, perched as he was upon a ledge above his cave. With claws that could shred marble like the confetti the ponies made, the black dragon pulled himself down the mountain. He slithered across the intervening space to encircle the smaller green dragon.
"You have grown, little foal. I sense much change in you. Tell me, how fares your mother?"
Sharptooth spun and turned, keeping the great muzzle of the black dragon in view at all times. "She is well, though I wonder what she means to you."
Onyxious' eyes glinted in the faint light from far-off lightning bolts. The storm Sharptooth had flown through was catching up with him. "When you are more grown, you may understand. Tell me, why did you come here?"
"I can leave if my presence offends you, Onyxious. I merely came to satisfy my curiosity." Sharptooth scowled.
"Curiosity is a worthy cause, foal. I would welcome you to my home, if you would stay a while. I sense you have questions. I would answer them for you, if possible. Stay if you wish, you have come a long way to leave like a thief in the night."
"Do not impugn my honour, dragon."
Onyxious laughed, a deep belly-shaking roar that made the smaller green dragon fume angrily. "Little one, forgive me. Come up here, turn around. Tell me what you see."
With a questioning look on his muzzle, Sharptooth did as he was bid. Clambering up to the dragon's cave on all fours, claws digging into the scree, before hopping lithely to the ledge above it, he gazed back the way he had come. It was rapidly growing darker now and the clouds were rolling in, but he knew the scenery and could picture what he couldn't see almost perfectly. Before him stretched Equestria, the southern wilds. They were high in the mountain ranges, home to the hardier ponies, the odd dragon and a few prides of griffons. The tree-line ended a short ways down the trail. Below that were great swathes of grassland and, further off in the distance, little plumes of smoke from pony villages. Off in other mountain peaks flew the griffons, making their homes amongst the clouds, hunting from the cliffs. Sharptooth stood silently, contemplating.
"I see..." the green dragon hesitated, then continued. "I don't see many dragons.."
"I see your unique heritage has benefits, Sharptooth," Onyxious rumbled. "The pax equestrus has done two things for the ponies. Firstly, it has made any even semi-intelligent race think twice before harming a pony. Secondly, it has made ponies something of a cause for fascination amongst our kind."
"And that keeps dragons away?"
Onyxious grinned toothily. "We are a nation of creature-watchers, young foal. Were we to bring Leviathania closer, it would forever change the ponies."
"What do you mean? They have societies, they build, they learn and teach..."
"Look at them, though. Bright little creatures, strutting across their realm. They live such brief, complicated lives. They are everything we dragons are not. You and I, like all dragons, interact based on contracts and agreements - many of them unknown to you. You are party to them all the same, as they were made with your adopted parents. All dragons live thus; we have contracts for hunting rights, for mating rights, for business and for pleasure. The ponies, however, are not like that. The natural state of being for dragons is a single dragon. The natural state of being for ponies is a herd. Together, they build their world... and they would give all that they have away were it asked for by one truly in need."
"What does that have to do with me?" Sharptooth tilted his head.
"An accident, an experiment, a duty..." Onyxious wandered inside the cave. As he passed, his voice echoed back out to the confused Sharptooth. The smaller green dragon took it to mean he was supposed to follow.
"Am I just some game to you?" Sharptooth hurried to catch up, moving deeper into the home of the titanic black dragon.
"No, no. You must understand, though I fear you cannot. We dragons are creatures of war and ritual."
"Wars of words, wars of numbers, wars of deeds. We ritualize such combat, and enshrine these deadly duels in our contracts and agreements. Thus does our civilization hang together on the will of every dragon to adhere to a mode of warfare which does the least amount of damage yet requires the maximum amount of effort."
The black dragon was moving deeper into his cave than ever before. Sharptooth followed him, almost running to keep up. He had expected obscure lessons, maybe even forbidden magic or ancient knowledge. He didn't understand what the other dragon wanted or meant, and it was confusing and strange beyond belief.
The cave was lit now with glowing fungus and scratched runes that looked almost as old as the rock itself. Stopping as the blackness intensified, Sharptooth found himself standing on the edge of an enormous sigil on the floor of the tunnel. It flickered and spat, with little bolts of what appeared to be lightning shooting from it. It hurt his eyes to look at it and made his flesh creep beneath his scales.
"You may cross, foal." The words were softly spoken, but they resonated like a thunderclap. All at once, the feelings of dread dissipated. Sharptooth found himself shaking. He knew where he was: this was Onyxious' hoard, the dragon's most sacred place. It felt almost sacrilegious for him to be there, as if he were walking upon the black dragon's open heart.
The cavern beyond the runic sigil was immense, and he couldn't see the ceiling. Braziers full of burning rocks lit the enclosed space and the air was tense and close. Shadows and reflections danced upon the walls and flickered across the myriad piles of belongings and memories. There were coins, weapons and skins. There was jewelry and precious gems, piles of scrolls, and tomes so old that Sharptooth could practically feel the weight of centuries oozing from between their leather-bound pages.
"I... don't think I understand. War? How can a civilization be built upon war? Wouldn't it be just death and destruction?"
Onyxious chuckled, though the sound was low and sad. "Any fool can kill. It takes a real master to bring his opponent to rack and ruin, and leave him alive to know it. It takes more skill than that to build up your enemy to be capable of the greatest of achievements, and to owe everything to you, and to thank you for it."
"Now I'm even more confused." Sharptooth said. "Are you saying I'm your enemy? Have you lured me here to kill me?"
"I've brought you here for one reason, little Sharptooth," Onyxious said as he produced two small chests. "I want you to unravel the meaning of these." One at a time, using his enormous ebony claws for purchase, he placed the objects carefully upon the smooth stone floor. The huge black dragon opened the two chests. One was full to the brim with broken eggshells, mottled and cracked. The other had but one eggshell within it, although this one was whole. Faint lines could be seen tracing a network of cracks, as if it had been shattered and then put back together. Sharptooth reached out a claw, reverently, but stopped short of actually touching them.
"These are... mine. I mean, that one in particular... is my egg. These are the others from the nest Mama told me about, but why?"
Onyxious snorted and flicked his tail derisively.
Sharptooth looked from the huge black dragon to the small chests and back again. He took a deep breath, and spoke a single word. "Love." Sharptooth held his breath as the larger dragon turned away. "It's love," he said again. "Dragons have to love. Love is a... a contract you make with yourself to benefit somebody else, without any expectation of recompense."
"I must be growing soft," Onyxious stated, turning away so he faced the dark reaches of the cave.
"Maybe, or maybe ponies are growing on you... maybe ponies are growing on dragons. I... love Shimmer Star. Somewhere out there, maybe there's a dragon who loves me too, the same way. I've never met her. I wonder what she looks like."
In a swift, predatory motion, the two chests were snatched up and Onyxious himself vanished into the furthest corners of the hoard. "I tire of your prattling, foal. Begone." His voice echoed ominously, and the susurrations of his armoured tail-spikes spoke of warning. With a wave of his claws, Onyxious plunged the cave into near pitch blackness. Feeling his way back along the cavern, with only the flickering balefire light of the hoard seal to show the way, Sharptooth fled.
Sharptooth had curled up in the dragon's cave in a corner near the fire. Afraid to stay, too proud to leave, he hadn't slept well. Some time into the long night, however, he had entered into a fitful doze. Thus, the application of huge claw to his side snapped him into wakefulness.
"Awaken, foal. I would see whether your pony-parents have done as good a job as I hope in growing you. Your mother tells me you have taken up map-making?"
"My mother?" the green dragon yawned, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "How did you know..?"
"She writes, when she cannot visit. Well?"
"I, er, no, well... not quite. I'm making a... a better map," Sharptooth stammered. "Equestria is... fuzzy, at the edges. The ponies all know where they live, and it's all well-known near Canterlot, but down here and out near the Griffon Kingdoms, there's a lot of unknowns. I noticed Mama's map was far more wrong than it should have been, and I started studying it. I think I understand what, but not why."
Onyxious said nothing for a few minutes, then he seemed to come to a conclusion. "Come, Sharptooth. Can you fly?"
"Yes, sir, I flew here."
"Then follow me."
Sharptooth followed Onyxious outside. The sun was up and the sky was clear, but the wind was fresh and cold. Taking a few huge lumbering steps, the ebony-hued behemoth took to the skies. Sharptooth watched as the other dragon circled, then leaped into the air to follow him. The dragon didn't wait long, but almost immediately started flapping his wings to gain altitude and speed. Sharptooth found it was hard work to keep up, but he was determined not to lose sight of his goal.
Equestria spread out below them. Green rolling hills, meadows full of flowers, small brooks and quiet little hamlets dotted the landscape. Casting his eyes upwards, the green dragon spied pegasi darting about, maneuvering the clouds to provide shade or bring the rains. His talons involuntarily flexed, and it made him feel a slight twinge of shame. He had had no breakfast, and very little to eat in the past few days.
With a start, he realized he'd lost sight of Onyxious, but it wasn't to be for long. Moments later, the great dark shadow rose out of the clouds and that huge head turned towards him.
"From here, Sharptooth, they all seem so smalll, don't they? So fragile, and yet their works leave an indelible hoofprint across this land."
Sharptooth nodded, flapping his wings. His breath was coming hot and fast, but a second wind filled him. He felt as one with the heavens. Beneath him, Onyxious lazily rolled and dived, before coming up to his other side.
"What if I told you, that this was flat wrong. Those fragile ponies are anything but, and that land they shape to their whim is like smoke. You are drawn to this truth, Sharptooth, because of your true nature. Those ponies, and the griffon, and the diamond dogs, they all but create the world they stand upon. You and I, we can see things as they truly are. Follow now, foal. If you succeed, I will henceforth call you hatchling."
"If I fail?"
"Then you will surely die."
"I will not fail."
Onyxious rose again, seemingly effortlessly, and Sharptooth urged his body onwards to follow. As he watched, the black dragon began to shimmer; ribbons of light burst from his body, scintillating diamond-flecked pin-pricks streaming from from his scales in a shower of stars. Where they fell, they dissipated like rain on hot rocks, evaporating into the ether. They seemed to melt into the sky as if they were a part of it, for all the world like seafoam swallowed by the ocean waves. As the black behemoth sped his way through the sky, he was not flapping merely through the air, but through the sky itself.
Sharptooth tasted the magical backwash, tinny and metallic. He spurted flame to purge the taste and then sought to emulate his reluctant teacher. Catching what felt like eddies in an otherwise still pond, Sharptooth marvelled at the feel of it. It was electric, like he imagined a tame lightning bolt would feel. It was a tingling warmth that spread throughout his body from end of his snout to the very tip of his tail.
"Feel it, young one! This is the magic you were born with, Sharptooth. This is magic that few ponies could hope to understand, let alone master."
"What... what is it?"
"You asked how come your pony-mother's map is wrong? You ask to be taught the forces behind the spells you have placed upon your own map? I now show you, little one. Fly with me!"
Sharptooth had a feeling of great distance opening before him, but it was unlike anything he had experienced before. Many times since gaining flight, he had soared above Equestria purely for the thrill of it, sculling through the upper reaches of the sky, letting his mind drift as aimlessly as his body. Sometimes, he fancied himself swimming through a great ocean, with not height but depths below him. This, now, was the same sensation but magnified a thousand fold. Silently, though senses other than the usual five were screaming at him in panic, the very fabric of the azure dome of the world split and tore open, and he fell down into the great roiling maw of chaos beyond.
The world changed. In an instant, the madness was gone, leaving nothing but after-images that faded as swiftly as the fragments of a dream, forgotten in the morning. Blinking away tears, the green dragon looked around at the realm beneath him. It took his breath away, the stark beauty and contrast almost made his wings falter as he forgot to fly.
It was diamond, the whole world was seemingly made of diamond. A great ocean of crystal covered everything, a forest of never-ending scintillating spires as far as the eye could see. The strange, alien world was tinged with a dull vermilion, and it was devastatingly quiet. Looking up, Sharptooth almost lost the remaining shreds of self-control. He cowered in shock; the sun! It was huge, bloated and red. It hung in the sky like a leprous pumpkin, half as big as the horizon. Strange eddies of lights spun and twisted in the cloudless sky and he could see stars dotting the curtain of night even though it had to be day.
He landed heavily, breathless and shaking. "What is this place?" he called.
Onyxious furled his wings as his great talons fastened to a crystalline ledge. "Welcome, hatchling. Welcome to the Diamond Expanse."
Penny eyed the chariot suspiciously. "Tell me again why I've got to pull your fat backside through the sky?"
Chip had the decency to look embarrassed. "Umm, well, it's... you see..."
"Dufus is right, Pen. Me and Beth don't have the skills. Only you and Hairpin can fly this thing. If we all want to go, you've gotta help." Carmine shrugged her wings, flicking Chip in the ear.
"I want a pony-pedi," Bright Pinion said, scowling.
"Huh?" Chip head-tilted in surprise.
"You, me, a hoof-scrub and some spit and polish. Or no deal."
Carmine squawked in a griffonish chuckle, "Me too, Chip."
"And me!" Hairpin said, giggling as she landed. Her saddle-bags were full of supplies, which Bella helped to unload. "In fact, all us girls deserve a little special attention on this holiday."
Chip rolled his eyes. "No fair! You're all ganging up on me!"
"It's what we do best, master. Comes with the job, for me, so all my girlfriends get a little extra."
Chip hung his head. It was going to be expensive, owning a thoroughbred like Hairpin. He could see it now: shopping trips, designer saddlebags, chic clothes... He shuddered.
"Cheer up." Hairpin kissed him on the cheek as she moved to pack yet more clothes and makeup in the carriage, "I promise to let you misbehave at least once, and I won't even tell your dad."
"Not that I won't find out," Sharptooth said as he lumbered out of the house, limping slightly. "I see you have things well in hoof, Miss Hairpin. Do let me know when you get there, I believe young Chip has been practicing his posting skills. Which reminds me, you have my leave to take a side-trip to Ponyville and fetch my tea-set back again, if it fits in your schedule."
Chip winced. "Sorry, dad."
The green dragon chuckled. "Accidents happen. So, are you all ready?"
"Wait..!" came a plaintive cry, followed by huffing and puffing and the pitter-patter of little paws. "Wait for Ruff! Ruff comes too!"
Chip turned to see Ruff, the smallish diamond dog, heaving himself up the last few steps. Chip raised an eyebrow. "You wanna come too?" He watched as the diminutive diamond dog all but collapsed into the chariot, wheezing and puffing from running all the way up the stone spire to the dragon's home.
"Uh-huh! Ruff... wants..." he huffed and wheezed some more before continuing, "to come too. I even have an adventuring hat!" The diamond dog pup thumbed a claw at his backpack as he fell onto his stomach. It was stuffed with what clothes a troll like him would need, to which was affixed a beige, pith helmet. "Just like Daring Do!"
Chip whistled appreciatively. "That is a nice hat. I think we have room for one more... what do you guys think?"
Carmine rolled her eyes, but Hairpin trotted over and picked him up by the scruff of his neck, placing the pup in the chariot. "We've got room," she said, ruffling his head-fur.
"In that case, there is but one more thing before you can go, my son. Wait here."
Chip watched as the dragon disappeared inside the house. A few minutes later, he emerged again, holding a rolled-up scroll in one claw.
The larger green dragon unrolled it almost reverently. It was drawn on what felt like canvas, thick and hard to tear, but the ink itself was what drew the eye: the map was made of neat brown lines, flowing with an uncanny precision that seemed organic more than made. Spidery text marked points of interest, in what appeared to be Equestrian as well as in some other pictorial language made of rune-like scratchings.
"This is the first version of my map. It has been sought after for centuries, but it is not for ponies to own. You will guard it with your lives; the secrets held within could unravel the fragile peace which reigns in Equestria, and I think all here know just how fragile that truly is." The dragon looked from pony to griffon to diamond dog to pony-shaped dragon, meeting the gaze of each one. "I give this to you now, Chiphoof Irontail Leatherback, so that you may better fulfill whatever quest you feel you are on. Be careful with it, the map will guide you truthfully but it will not guide you safely."
"I... thank you, dad. I'll be careful."
"When you return, I may teach you some of the spells behind it. For now, know why I made it: I sought to make known all of Equestria, and in my hubris thought it a simple task. It wasn't. Observe." Smoothing out the map carefully, Sharptooth placed four rocks in each corner to keep it flat and prevent the wind from taking it. He pointed to Neighvada, and then off towards Rein, his claw tracing its way to some convoluted sigils and signs. "Here lies the beginning of the Path to the lost diamond dog realm, young adventurers. Deviate from it, and it will remain hidden from you. Follow it, follow each and every twist and turn, and you will find what you seek. I warn you, though, do not attempt to pass through. Whatever Way was opened, if it still exists, is unstable and liable to collapse. Should it collapse with you in it, you will never return."
Chip gulped. "I won't, I promise. We all do."
The sun was setting behind them to the west, turning the sky golden and the clouds red. They flew on towards the night and the rising moon in silence, basking in the common glow of adventure. They'd been travelling all day at an easy pace, the seemingly tireless pegasi devouring the miles. Even with the two ponies, one diamond dog and all the luggage stuffed into the chariot, they'd made good time. The two griffons, Beth and Carmine, had flown to either side, diving and swooping as they caught prey on the wing. Other than brief stops for water and food, they'd been on the move since the early morning. Slowly, however, fatigue was making itself known.
Beneath them, the desert had changed to greener fields - although most was still a universal shade of brown, with the thick clay-rich ground stretching out in all directions. Chip and his party flew lower now and their shadows sped before them, stretched long and thin. Seemingly all at once, the desert which had previously given way to dry farmlands scraped out of the dust was itself replaced by scrubby trees and bushes. The marked change, despite the continuation of dry, sparse terrain, marked a resurgence in earth ponies and civilization. They were following a road now, the only road, as it wound its way through the baked countryside from the city to the outlying towns.
Neighvada was far behind them, but it would be a visible glow during the night. It had been all bright lights and busy streets. In contrast to the sleepy Tacksworn, the city had been a shock to the system. Neighvada never slept, not even during the afternoon siesta period which marked a lull for life back home. They'd had to fly higher on their trip across the bustling metropolis, the chariot swaying as Hairpin and Penny fought microbursts and avoided pegasi, dragon and other air-traffic. Chip had looked out of the chariot at the city somewhat wistfully. He'd never really visited Neighvada, he'd only ever been there with his parents. Then again, the last time he'd visited the area he'd ended up with Pyrite, the uncle who had arranged for his parents' death and had who had tried to kill him too. Mixed feelings, indeed.
As Rein came up before them, he didn't quite know what to make of things. His ancestral home was almost a stranger to him now, with his life clearly demarked into before and after periods in the colt's mind.
"Tell me you've got a ledge we can land on, right?" called Carmine as she swooped momentarily closer to the chariot, eyes searching the houses and other dwellings incredulously.
"No," cried Chip over the wind, "the whole town is mostly full of earth ponies and unicorns, so no wings. All the pegasi live in Featherfall nearer the great lake. We can land in the grounds though. I don't know if the servants stayed on, but there are places for carriages where we can stow our gear."
"You had servants?" asked Hairpin, raising her voice above the gusts, flicking an ear.
Chip shook his head. "Not really. Craftsponies would come and fix the garden and clean the windows, things like that, and we had maids come and do the washing, but not actual servants. I don't know if they're still being paid... I kind of... didn't get much chance to find out."
A wing brushed his ear as Carmine swooped closer again. "That's what we're here for, dragon-boy."
The landing proved to be exciting, if by 'exciting' was meant 'almost had to clean the upholstery'. Bright Penny was exhausted and inexperienced; they'd flown further than they should have with the young pegasus pulling, and by the time Chip had located his home, the filly was almost ready to drop.
"There it is!" cried Chip, pointing with a hoof. Carmine and Beth flew ahead, circling the buildings where the colt had shown.
"Coming in for a landing then!" cried Hairpin. "Keep all hooves and legs inside the carriage at all times! Fasten all seat-belts!"
"We don't have seatbelts!" shouted Chip as the chariot circled, dropping lower and lower. They barely cleared the roof, knocking slates off on what surely had to be their final pass.
"Then hold on! Penny, you've got to flare your wings and drop your speed just before you land, okay?"
"Okay... I think!"
Chip hadn't known you could slide a chariot into a barn without opening the doors first. Now he knew better. He coughed as straw rained about them, waving a hoof in front of his muzzle. "We all in one piece?" The colt stood up, more used to heavy landings than the rest of the chariot's occupants.
"Owww," moaned Bright Penny. She'd fallen onto her backside, and was currently nursing her rear end.
Hairpin poked her head out of a pile of hay that had fallen on her and the carriage. "All present and correct, master!"
"Ruff is here too!" Ruff waved a paw out of the pile that had formed from their luggage, his voice rather muffled.
"I'm alive," Bella said, flipping herself the right way up in a tangle of legs, mane and tail. "Barely."
With a flutter of feathers, Carmine and Beth landed outside the barn. They padded in, chuckling. "I think you guys should get a little practice before you try that again," Carmine said.
"Practice is what doesn't kill you... or something. I think I'm about ready for some shut-eye," Penny said, yawning as she tentatively stretched her wings. "Practice more tomorrow."
Chip stretched as he looked around at the group. He couldn't help grinning. "Grab what you need for tonight, I'll get the doors open. I... don't know what the rooms are like, so just find somewhere you like and settle down. I'm too tired to even attempt to make the beds."
The doors opened with little fuss, though the locks were stiff and he had to grit his teeth to turn the key. The windows were all shuttered and drawn and dust was everywhere. The air of the building smelled musty and disused. Chip shuddered as he entered, for the first few moments it felt almost somehow wrong to be intruding. Then the loud clatter and clack of hooves and claws filled the suddenly-cramped space of the rear entrance, and Chip found himself pointing up staircases and down corridors. It was, when all was said and done, a small house, and the group of seven were more than enough to bring it back to life.
Chip found himself putting Hairpin in his parents room. Ruff bundled in too, leaping on the bed as Pin opened the windows to let in some fresher air. Bella and Beth both found guest rooms, as did Penny, and Chip found his old bedroom.
It was bare, now. Most of his belongings were back home in Tacksworn. As he looked around at the empty walls, brighter patches of cracked paint and faded wallpaper where his drawings and posters had been, he realized that home was somewhere else. It was disconcerting, another reminder of how his life had changed. He wasn't home, he was at his parents' house. It didn't feel like his, even though he owned it.
"Hey, kid," Carmine called. She pushed the door open with a claw. "There's... not really anywhere for me to sleep so... I was kinda thinking..."
"Yeah, yeah, I'll... sleep on the couch."
"Shards and shells, Chip!" Carmine punched him in the withers again. "Wrong answer!"
"Er," Chip blushed, "w-would you like to sleep w-with me?"
"Yeah, but I get the bed." The griffon stalked in, her tail flicking him softly on the nose.
Chip rolled his eyes, sniffling and wiping them surreptitiously where the griffon couldn't see it. She flicked him with her tail again anyhow.
"Don't tell anyone, but... I kinda like you. I figured you could do with some company, back in the old place, folks not home and all that."
Chip laughed, wiping away the tears. "I could, thanks, C." He busied himself fetching some extra blankets and cushions. Turning around, he caught the griffon watching him. "What?"
"You know, if you're cold, you could sleep on the bed too." Carmine leaped up and buried herself under the covers. "Just sleep though, on your side." She yawned through the blanket, "and no snoring."
Chip watched as the griffon curled herself up, lion's tail almost wrapped around her muzzle. He shook his head. Girls. Would they ever make any sense? He clambered up onto the mattress, arranging cushions in the now-too-small bed and pulling a second blanket over himself with his teeth. He lay looking at the wall for a long time, listening to and feeling the breathing of the griffon chick next to him grow gradually deeper and slower. He closed his eyes, and eventually sleep found him.
Sharptooth stood on the ridge of the mountain. It felt smooth, as if it had been molten at one time. "What happened here?"
"This world is old, young Sharptooth." Onyxious folded his limbs up underneath his body. "That sun has been shining for years longer than Equestria has existed. It will shine for many more. Legends tell of a time when this planet was teeming with life, when it was green and pleasant. Like all things, that time came to an end. The sun burned, young dragon. It split the sky asunder and melted the world into glass. Some say it was the creatures who lived here, others that it was some other entity from the Great Deeps. I know not. Whatever it was, it left this world cold and lifeless, but beautiful."
Sharptooth listened, and realised that he couldn't hear anything. Not a bird, not a pony, not a wolf... not even the chirping of insects. The world was dead. He swallowed. "Why? Why do you show this to me?"
"Because, young dragon, you must understand what it is you seek."
Sharptooth eyed Onyxious. "I'm a dragon now, then?"
There was a short, sharp snort. "If you will it. Young dragon, you stand upon a new world. Between this and Equestria lies a thin veil which is all too easily pierced. Should ponies, and a more curious younger race I have yet to encounter, attempt to master the map you seek to create, they could pull their world into the spaces between."
Sharptooth shivered as Onyxious leaned his head closer.
"It would not end well."
"You followed me. I was not lying when I told you that hasty actions would lead to your untimely end. This, dragon, is the legacy you would inherit. The world, the knowledge and the burden of its protection."
"That's a lot to take in." Sharptooth hissed through his teeth appreciatively.
"I am sure you are more than capable." Onyxious turned his head to the skies, apparently lost in thought.
"A compliment?" Sharptooth grinned, spreading his wings gleefully. At the black dragon's infuriated snort, the younger green dragon hopped from hind-claw to hind-claw. "It was! You complimented me!"
"I'll try not to make a habit of it," chuckled the black dragon mirthfully. "Perhaps, young Sharptooth, you would listen to a suggestion from an old, foolish dragon?"
The green dragon stopped hopping about and turned to listen.
"The ponies need... a shepherd. A dragon, to stand amongst them, to teach them and guide them as they grow. I would see their kind prosper and flourish, and continued good ties with Leviathania can only be a benefit. When you have finished your studies, when you are truly ready to be a dragon, then approach the emperor. I would nominate you ambassador, and sponsor your election."
"An ambassador? Me?" Sharptooth blinked, eyeing the other dragon.
"There are few of our kind who would see it as necessary, fewer still who could perform such duties with the necessary understanding. It is not much, but I would... appreciate it."
"You like them, don't you?" asked Sharptooth after a few minutes of silence. "You like the ponies."
"They grow on you, young Sharptooth."