Author's Note: Let me say a few things before you begin.
I am not the god of writing, and this is my first fanfic, so keep that in mind when you read.
That's all I needed to say, enjoy.
From atop a towering mountain, a pony watched the sun rise over the land. He had done this every day for the past year, ever since his family arrived here. He would wake up before his parents, leave the cave which they resided in, ascend the mountain, and watch the sun rise over the horizon, spreading its rays of warmth over the town below. He watched the town begin it's day, ponies leaving their homes and heading to shops, fillies going to school, or simply groups of friends together. He watched longingly, knowing he could never be apart of it. A single tear flowed down his cheek.
His name was Midnight Flare, and he could barely even be called a pony. His mane flowed like a cool fire, with orange, red, and yellow rippling through it. His eyes were snakelike, and blue as a searing flame. In front of his pony teeth were a set of fangs, giving him a very intimidating smile. But his biggest difference was inside of him, he had a very special power that had never been seen before. And all of these differences came from one source: he had a dragon for a mother and a unicorn father.
"How was the sunrise today, son?" An old voice asked from behind him.
"It was just as beautiful as usual, Dad," Flare said, turning to the elderly grey unicorn, Lightning Strike, who had settled down beside him, "I thought Mom and I told you not to climb the hill anymore, especially not at your age."
As Strike had aged, his health had slowly begun to deteriorate, but this was only natural. When they had arrived here, however, Strikes health dropped significantly, and it became evident that he might not survive another move, so Flare's family decided to stay in this cave.
"Oh, son, I need the exercise." Strike said, and laughed. But that laugh quickly turned into a cough, and Flare wrapped his arm around his father as the coughing fit ran its course.
"Maybe I should carry you back down to the cave," Flare suggests as the coughs subside.
"No, no, I'm fine son, really," Strike tried to look strong, but failed and gave a sigh of resignation, "Son, I needed to talk to you...privately."
"Sure Dad, what do you need to talk about?" Flare asked, realizing that this conversation was about to turn serious.
"Son..." A pause, "Son, I'm dying," Strike said, and all pretense ended. The suspense snapped like a over-taunt rubber band. The time Flare had feared of had finally arrived. The nightmare that had haunted the back of his mind was finally unleashed.Tears began to swell in his eyes as he looks into the eyes of his father.
"I'm not sure how much longer I have, and I want to tie up some loose ends before I go," Strike looked deeply back into Flare's snake eyes, full of sadness and somber as death, "Your mother and I have been keeping you locked up in this cave for too long, so I need you to promise me something."
Flare felt tears flow from his eyes. He may have been an adolescent pony, but now he was simply that scared filly who was being forced into something ahead of his time.
"Promise me this: When my time comes and I pass into the next world, I want you to leave this cave and go out into the world, to find your place among the ponies. We've kept you hidden for too long as it is." He raised a hoof to silence the question forming on Flare's lips. What about Mom? "Crystal will be entering her 100 year hibernation soon, and I probably won't last too long after that. I am sorry you got this deal for life, but it will only get better from here, never worse." And with that, Strike rose to his hoofs, joints popping. "Lets get back to the cave," he said wearily. and without another word, or even waiting for a reply from his earlier request, he walked off down the mountain.
Flare just sat there, lost in the thought. How much time do you have left, Dad? When is Mom going into hibernation? How will I survive without you two? But most of all, there was one big question that loomed like a storm cloud: Why? Why did this happen to ME? Why didn't you two prepare me for this?
At around mid-day, Flare had still not moved when a large shadow fell over him. He knew who it was, but didn't bother to look up at her, all he did was say, "So you'll be leaving me too, huh?"
The large pale blue dragon, Crystal, settled down beside of Flare, settling one of her wings around him like a leather blanket, and pulled him to her side. "Baby, I know it's hard for you right now, we never meant for any of this to happen."
Flare looked up into one of his mothers deep blue eyes. "When you go to sleep, does that mean I'll never see you again?" It was a hard question to ask, but so was the entire situation.
Crystal hesitated over the question. Finally, she sighed and said, "We don't know. If you inherited the aging of your father, then probably not. But if you have the aging of a dragon, then you will live for a great while after I awaken. But we need not to ponder over this; we need to enjoy the time we still have left with each other." And with this, She rose, picking Flare up in one of her hands like he was a fruit, leaped into the air, and glided down to the cave where they resided.
From the top floor of the library, Spike called out, "Hey Twilight, get up here!"
The purple unicorn looked up from the book she was readingMy, he usually isn't this brash, I guess I better see what this is about. She rose from the floor where she was enveloped in her books, and ascended the stairs to the top floor, where Spike was eagerly peering through a telescope.
"What is it Spike?" Twilight said, trying to keep annoyance out of her voice.
"It's the dragon I keep on seeing, it's out again!" Seeing the skeptical look on Twilight's face, he moved a few steps back and gestured to the telescope. "Take a look for yourself!"
Moving up to the telescope, Twilight peered through the lenses. "I don't see anything, Spike, just the snow-covered mountain." The a deep blue spot catches her eye and she focused to reveal a large, pale blue dragon. "Oh wow," she says under her breath as she watched the glacier colored dragon. Then she noticed something else, another creature under its wing. Oh, it must be a mother and her child. I need to report this to the Princess immediatly.
"Spike! Get a letter ready!" The purple dragon hurried off to get the necessary supplies. In just under twenty seconds, he was back. "Ready Twilight!" He said enthusiastically.
"Dear Princess Celestia,
Today from my room I spotted what appeared to be a mother dragon and her child on a nearby mountain. There are caves in that area large enough for a dragon; we had to clear one earlier this year because of its snoring occupant. They appear not to pose any sort of threat to Ponyville, but I thought it would be helpful to inform you of this discovery.
Your faithful student,
"Got it." Spike said, jotting down the last few words.
"Good, send it." And without another word, Spike took a deep breath and blew fire onto the letter, sending it on its way to Princess Celestia.
"Can you believe it, Twilight? A mother and her child, SO CLOSE TO PONYVILLE!" Spike seemed very excited about this, and Twilight couldn't blame him. He really hasn't seen many dragons in his life. Well, except for that incident with the dragon migration a few months ago.
"Yeah, this is pretty inter-" She was cut off by Spike uttering a belch and sending a letter flying from his mouth.
"Wow, that was a pretty fast reply." Spike said, regaining his composure. He promptly picked up the letter, opened it, and read it aloud:
Thank you for informing me of this situation. I have been able to sense the mother dragon you mentioned, but not it's offspring. She may be hiding it from other creatures to protect it. I will be sending my sister to investigate when she is available. I would go myself, but I have to much to do here. I do not wish to send you, you have done enough adventuring as t is. This dragon offers no threat to Ponyville, as you have said, for she is preparing to enter her hundred year sleep. If she does have offspring with her, I will keep it here with me until I decide what I wish to do with it. I have not been able to sense the offspring, so I am unsure of it's age.
Thank you again for this information, keep me updated,
Spike looked about ready to burn a hole in the wall with excitement. "Another dragon? Oh, that would be GREAT!"
"Yeah, as if having one of you is bad enough," Seeing the surprised expression on Spike's face, she realized he missed the joke. "Hey, calm down, I was kidding, jeez."
The afternoon went by quickly, with the three of them sitting in the center of the cave, talking about nothing and everything, they simply enjoyed the presence of each other, knowing their time together was coming to a close. Finally, a strange question appeared in Flare's mind, and even he didn't know where it came from. "Mom, Dad, does anyone else know that I exist?"
This obviously caught both of his parents off guard; they exchanged nervous glances with each other before answering. "No, we...I cast a spell over you and your father that prevented anything, even Princess Celestia herself, from sensing your presence." Crystal began, but Strike finished the thought, "When you were first created, a few ponies knew of you, but they have probably passed on by now."
"Why would you hide us from the world?" Flare suddenly felt adrift, and under all of that, he felt betrayal. If nothing knows I exist, how will I get along in the world when my parents leave?
Strike answered instead of Crystal, who looked crestfallen. "Your mother hid us so that if any of the ponies or creatures that detested us tried to find us with magic, they would be unsuccessful."
"And you say 'created' like I am a bakery good...Guys, how was I born?" Flare knew he was hitting on some sensitive subjects that they hadn't mentioned before, but with little time left, they had nothing to lose.
Strike looks up at Crystal. "You can probably explain this better then I can." He says wearily.
Crystal nodded, and after taking a moment to gather her thoughts, spoke. "When your father and I first got together, we knew that biologically, it was unsafe or more likely impossible for us to make offspring...the usual way. So from some instinct within us, we melded our thoughts together and created you, a blend of the good qualities of dragons and ponies. It was a move of emotion, and we should have thought more before doing it, but what is done is done, and we still are proud of what we created."
Flare was speechless. So I'm not a natural creature, I am a new species. He new he wasn't normal, but this revelation hit him like a snap-kick to the chest. I am ALONE. Flare felt himself begin to lose control. His emotions were taking control of him again. He gave in to them, and began to change.
The dragon within him was coming out, the form he preferred, for it gave him a sense of belonging and being normal, for this form had no pony-like features. His coat began to recede, and they were replaced by shining jet black scales. His hooves turned to clawed hands, spikes that glowed like fire emerged from his back, his tail grew out, and his horn faded from his head. As the transformation finished, Flare rose up let loose a wave of blue flame from his mouth, but aimed it towards the ceiling so it didn't harm his parents. It bounced from the ceiling in a brilliant ball of destruction before dissipating as suddenly as it had been created.
Both of his parents were surprised, not by the transformation, but they realized how angry and hurt their son was; he rarely used his dragon side for much more then to fly and to carry things, and never to breath fire.
Strike was the first to speak, trying to calm his son. "We tried to live in society, but there were few towns with enough room for your mother, and even in those towns there were too many ponies that were against our relationship or terrified of your mother. So we live here, in a place appropriate for a dragon."
Flare looked down upon his aging father and immediatly felt embarrassed by his outburst. He remembered those times, barely, but he remembered. Being chased out of the town by ponies either enraged over the idea of a dragon in their town or terrified for their lives. He remembered being ridiculed for his appearance in the few days of school he did attend, either by the students or even some of the teachers. He sank down to his knees but didn't bother going through the effort of becoming a pony again. "I'm sorry, I...I lost control of myself...again."
He felt a warm feeling pass over him and when he looked up again, his father was by his side, with one arm over him, and his mother had wrapped her long neck around them, placing one of her sapphire eyes in front of them. Flare felt tears well up in his eyes. "Will I ever see you guys again?"
It was the question of desperate children unwilling to let their parents go. "I don't know son, but we'll always be with you. we made this for you." Strike fumbled with something in his hooves, and Flare looked down to see it was a necklace. He took it from his fathers hooves gently and looked it over.
It was made of pure sapphire, with a picture of his mother on one side, and father on the other. The pictures were obviously formed through magic, for they flowed and moved. Looking around, smiling, laughing. The most significant feature of the pictures was that they showed Flare's parents throughout their lives; His father's picture would cycle from a filly to a handsome stallion to his present elderly state. It was here that Flare also saw his mother as a young dragon for the first time, a small creature with skin like a glacier and those same deep blue eyes. As Flare looked down upon it, he could no longer contain his tears, and broke down sobbing, holding onto his parents. He sobbed like a child, deep cries punctuated by gasping breaths. His parents just cried with him, and this was how they remained as the day faded and the night began, holding each other as they fell asleep.
The next morning they all ascended their mountain and watched the sunrise together, savoring over every detail. Yes, it really was their mountain. They had lived in it for over a year, and they knew every rock, blade of grass, and snowflake on the mountain. As the sun rose, Strike suffered from another coughing fit, and both Flare and Crystal held him as it passed. They decided it would be good to head back to the cave. Despite protests from both Flare and Crystal, Strike would not be carried back.
Strike was halfway back to the cave when he collapsed.
Time slowed to a crawl as Flare saw his father fall. He had stopped and opened his mouth to say something, but instead he looked to the sky with a strange look on his face, like he had seen a long lost friend. Then he simply went limp, collapsing like water poured onto the ground.
Flare was at his father's side in an instant, and Crystal was there shortly thereafter. He pulled his father into his arms and stared into his eyes, but they did not stare back. He was gone. A tear rolled off of Flare's scaled cheek; he was still in his dragon form. "Dad..." he struggled to form the word. Flare closed his eyes, and out of desperation, attempted to use magic to revive his father, forcing any magic he had into his father, but this was in vain. Flare realized that neither he or Crystal were capable of reviving him, and a sense of failure as strong as a hurricane fulled him. He broke down sobbing, and Crystal joined him; they spent just over an hour sitting there, sobbing as they held Strike's broken body.
When their sobs had begun to subside, Flare looked up at his mother. "What...what do we do now?"
Crystal looked at him with a tear filled eye. "Bring him back to the cave...I know what we'll do."
And with that, Crystal rose, turned, and flew back, leaving Flare alone with his father's body. He stood, draping the body carefully on his back, and sagely made his way down the path to the cave.
When he arrived, he saw Crystal had accumulated a large amount of sand. "What will we do with that?" Flare asked.
"We make a memorial for him," Crystal said, "I saw mothers do this if one of there children died young. Set you father over there," She indicated a spot with one clawed finger, "and have him look peaceful, like he was sleeping." This was another side of Crystal that Flare had never seen before, the side without emotion, that simply said what needed to be done and did its part. Flare glanced at his mother worriedly then followed her instructions.
Flare moved his father to the indicated spot, and laid him there. He carefully arranged his father so he looked curled up, sleeping peacefully, with a calm look on his face like he was having a good dream.
"He looks...happy." Flare turned to look at his mother, and he shared a sad smile with her. She looked...adrift. Lost in her thoughts.
After about a minute, Crystal snapped out of her trance-like state and went over to the pile of sand she had accumulated, picked up a handful of it, and poured it gently over Strike's body. Beginning to understand what his mother had in mind, he assisted his mother in covering the body with sand until there was a fairly large dome of it covering the spot where his father was lying. Crystal smoothed the sand with her hand, making it as flawless as she could. When she was finished, she rose and looked out the cave entrance. The sun had set and the moon had begun to rise.
"Have you figured out what comes next?" She asked Flare, still watching the night.
Flare nodded, and they each moved to position themselves around the pile of sand.
Then they both let loose a torrent of flames upon it.
Both Crystal and Flare breathed fire with all of their might into the dome, careful not to disrupt its shape but still with enough power to achieve their goal. They maintained the flames for as long as they could, but eventually their flames subsided with exhaustion. As the smoke faded, they gleamed sadly at the results of their work.
The dome was no longer made of sand, but glass. The flames had heated the sand enough to turn it to glass, but not damage its contents. Within its center was Strike, still curled in his dreamlike state.
"We should leave an inscription." Crystal suggested. Flare nodded in agreement.
The dome still radiated heat like a bonfire, but Flare did not care. He approached the dome and knelt down. With one clawed finger, he carved into the front of the dome:
Here lies the body of Lightning Strike, a brave unicorn who was able to set aside his way of life for the ones he loved. He was able to look through a being's physical appearance and love them for who they were. For that, he shall be remembered.
"How were you able to make the sand pure enough to become clear glass?" Flare asked as he observed how flawlessly clear the glass was.
"Magic," Crystal said, deadpan, "I learned of how to do this when my mother and I did this for my brother. He was killed by being struck by a bolt of lightning."
Flare felt his jaw drop. He had never known that his mother had any siblings. He looked into her deep blue eyes and saw only pain and sorrow. Realizing how hurt she must be for having to bury a second loved one, he stood and went to his mother, rose up on his hind legs, and wrapped both his arms around her neck, trying to comfort her.
It was her turn to cry, and she simply collapsed; all of the sadness and pain she hid had finally come out, crashing through her like a colossal wave. Flare had to move slightly to avoid being crushed by her, but otherwise he remained by his mothers side as she cried the night away.
Flare awoke the next morning still embracing his mother. She had cried for hours last night, but eventually the tears faded and they both faded into sleep.
As gently as possible, he released his hold of her and slipped out from her side. He moved over to his fathers glass tomb and spent the next hour looking over every detail of his father, so that when the time soon came for him to leave, he would be able to remember his father. He still had the necklace strike had given him, but he still found comfort in seeing his father look so calm.
He heard his mother begin to stir. She opened her eyes and looked around the cave as if something was missing. Then she remembered the events of the past few days and Flare half expected her to break down in tears again. But all she did was sigh sadly and look over at Flare. "I miss him already."
"That makes two of us." Flare said. His mother and him locked eyes for a few moments. Eyes are windows to the soul, that couldn't have been more true. Flare saw sadness in his mothers eyes, but underneath it, there was strength and hope.
The day passed slowly and silently, but eventually Flare had to break the silence to keep his sanity in order.
"Mom, when you told me stories about other dragons, most of them were greedy and stole often. Why didn't you ever act like that?" Flare asked, trying to return to normal. But deep down he knew that things would never be normal again.
Crystal look surprised, although Flare was unsure about what. "Male dragons are very greedy when they grow up, always wanting things of value. But female dragons, once they have offspring or something to care for, begin to lose their sense of greed and focus more on being able to provide for what they care for. Once I met your father and had you, I lost my sense of selfishness and only worried about what happened to you."
Flare was silent. He honestly didn't know what he expected for an answer.
Crystal cleared her throat and looked as if she was having difficulty thinking. "I have taught you about how dragons hiberate for a century at a time, and I am due for my hibernation soon...very soon."
Flare looked suspiciously at his mother. "What you you saying?"
Crystal let out a deep sigh and looked Flare straight in the eye. "What I am saying is that I doubt I have a day left before I enter hibernation. I can feel my instinct pulling at my consciousness. I don't know how long I will be able to stay awake."
Flare just stared at his mother, emotionless. Normally he would break down sobbing at this, but he had cried so much over the past two days that he was beginning to grow accustomed to the sadness and loss. He showed nothing on the outside, but his soul twisted at the prospect of losing both his parents within days of each other.
Crystal walked over to him, filled with concern over his lack of reaction. She pulled him to her and embraced him. "Baby, I know it's been hard for you lately, but you have to stay strong. You have the strength of a dragon, don't hesitate to use it."
Flare, looked up his mother. "But what do I do when you leave?"
Crystal thought for a moment before answering. "When I hibernate, go to the town below, and find your place there. Surely they can make room for you there." She said, full of reassurance.
They remained beside each other for the remainder of the day, but as the day began to fade, Flare looked up at his mother again. Her eyes were half closed. Flare looked into her closing eyes, filled with alarm.
"Mom..." Flare whispered.
"I'm sorry, baby." Crystal drowsily. She didn't have much time left.
"Mom," Flare was desperate, trying to pick what his finally words to his mother should be, "Mom, in case I don't see you when you wake up, I want you to know how much I love you."
"I know, baby, I know." She said. "I'm proud of you..."
Then her eyelid slid fully down with a click like a pebble falling on stone, and she was gone.
Princess Celestia snapped back to reality from the realm of her thoughts. Her glanced around her large throne room to see if she could spot what startled her. None of her guards seemed to notice her spasm, but she doubted that they would show it if they had. They are always so emotionless. Celestia thought to herself.
It soon dawned on her that the source of the disruption was not in the room, but in Celestia's mind.
Celestia had always been able to sense the songs of the animals in her kingdom. The harmonious choir of the birds, the powerful beat of the dragons, the varying notes of ponies, and even the strange, threatening melodies of the creatures in the Everfree forest. She had felt new prescences enter her kingdom constantly as creatures were born, and she had learned to deal with that.
But she felt a new presence that perplexed her, for it did not belong to any of the species that she knew of. It had a strong beat, like that of a dragon, but it also had a culmination of different emotions, like that of a pony. Strongest among these emotions were loss and sadness, and that worried Celestia. She was accustomed to sadness in the kingdom, but the pure amount of it emulating from this creature was palpable. Under this, though, she sensed hope, and that lessened her worries, knowing that this creature, whatever it was, had enough determination to survive.
But when Luna returned from the moon, she resumed her control of the night, so Celestia's powers were weaker at night. Her sun had just set, so her abilities to search deeper into this new creature were no more. I shall carry on my investigation in the morning. She thought to herself as she rose from her throne. The two grey guards at the base of her throne snapped back to attention. As she walked down from her throne, she spoke to them. "Hurricane, Thorn, escort me back to my quarters," she raised her voice so the other guards in the room could hear, "As for the rest of you, you are dismissed for the night unless you have watch duty."
She promptly turned and left the room, the two guards falling in at her sides, still remaining emotionless. The other guards in the room began to casually move out another exit.
As they moved through the halls of the castle, Celestia suddenly made a connection. That presence wasn't a child, it was older. Maybe this is the creature Twilight informed me of with the dragon! This changed everything. She needed to send word to her sister to warn her. When she arrived at the large doors to her bedchambers, she turned to the two guards.
"Awaken me immediatly when my sister returns from her current assignment. Understood?"
"Yes ma'am!" The guards replied in unison, loudly enough to echo down the stone hall.
"Good. Dismissed." She said as she turned and entered her bedchambers.
She quickly went over to her desk, picked up a letter and quill, and jotted downa a note for Luna.
Be cautious when you get to the cave, I believe that the mother dragon has already entered hibenation, but the offspring is strange, he appears to be a new species. He is undergoing a great deal of suffering now, so please try to be comforting with it.
She quickly sent the note, hoping it got to her sister before she reached the cave. Don't want to scare the poor thing even more then it already is. I should have simply gone myself. Oh well...
Flare sat at his mothers side, leaning against her sleeping form, his mind adrift, trying to decide what to do next. He had spent the past few hours watching the flowing pictures on the necklace he was given by his parents.
I should leave here, go to the town and try to fit in. Flare thought to himself. It is what my parents would have wanted.
But as soon as Flare had begun to form a plan, a voice boomed from the cave entrance.
"WHAT BEINGS RESIDE IN THIS CAVE?!"
It echoed off of the walls, disorienting Flare for a moment. Flare snapped his head around to the cave opening when he regained his senses, and his heart skipped a beat.
Standing at the opening were five figures. Four of which appeared to be soldiers of some type. They were pegusi, white in color, with golden armor. They all had the same expressionless look on their faces, but Flare looked into each of their eyes and saw malevolence in all four of them. One of them had a black pauldron on his shoulder with a symbol upon it. Flare guessed that it meant he was of higher rank charge of the other three.
But it was the fifth figure, standing in the center, who had emitted the call who caught Flares attention. She stood taller then her guards, although her expression wasn't much nicer. She was tall, with a beautifully slender body. She had a mane that flowed and sparkled like she was bending the night sky around her. She was dark blue in color, with beautiful aqua colored eyes. The mark on her flank was that of a crescent moon with darkness around it like she had sat in black paint. She had both a horn and wings. She had a black crown upon her head and a chest plate with the same symbol as on her flank. She was quite different from her guards.
Suddenly, with a flash of light, a piece of parchment appeared from out of nowhere, landing in front of the alicorn.
Using magic, she lifted the paper to read it, and when she did, her expression softened considerably. When she looked back up from the note, Flare saw that the emotionless mask she had been wearing before had faded, and as she looked around and saw first the dome containing his father's body, then his hibernating mother, it was replaced by a look of sympathy.
"Forgive me, I did not intend on being so...rude. My name is Luna" She said, looking back to Flare.
Why me? Flare thought as he looked at Luna, realizing that his previous plans had just been vetoed.
"Hello Luna. I'm Midnight Flare," Flare said, trying to speak casually, "how did you find our cave?"
Luna looked confused by the word "our" for a moment, then she realized the context of it. "We received a report of a dragon and offspring from the town below. Princess Celestia has informed me that your mother was going to be entering hibernation soon. I had hoped to arrive before it began...it appears I was too late." Luna said, gesturing to the colossal sleeping form behind Flare.
"Yes, you were. But don't try to reawaken her, I doubt she would be in a very good mood." Flare could not believe the words coming out of his mouth. What he wanted more then anything at that moment was to see his mother open her sapphire eyes and be with him again. No, this is the way it must be.
"And what exactly did you plan to do with me?" Flare asked as he became more suspicious.
"We were going to take you back to Canterlot with us for Princess Celestia to decide what to do with you." Luna said, and made a gesture to her guards. They moved in response. Flare extended his claws fully for an instant and barred his fangs, expecting opposition. All of them froze, including Luna, who watched Flare cautiously with wide eyes.
"We do not mean to harm you, the guards were simply moving to go prepare the chariot," She said in a soothing voice and Flare felt himself begin to relax. He reluctantly retracted his claws and closed his mouth, but did not take his eyes off of the guards as they cautiously made their way out of the cave.
"Please forgive me, I forgot how sensitive the situation was," Luna said, slowly moving over to Flare, unsure of his response, "You do not need to come with us if you do not want to, but it will be better if you do."
Flare simply looked into Luna's aqua eyes, but saw no malevolence in them. "Fine...I will go with you. Can I just have a few moments to say goodbye?" Flare asked in a weak voice.
"Yes, take all the time that you need, the chariot will be awaiting atop the mountain." And with that, Luna turned and left Flare with his parents.
"I know you both can't hear me," Flare said, addressing both of them, "but thank you, for everything. I wish you two could have stayed with me for longer, but the time we did have was worth every second. Things will be getting better, and I will never forget you." And with that, Flare turned and left the cave that had been his home and the spot of so much pain over the past few days. A fast goodbye is always the best, he thought as he worked his way up the mountain. When he reached the top he saw one of the most magnificent things he had ever seen.
It was a chariot, as Luna called it, but it was colossal. It had room in the front for the four guards to secure themselves and extend their wings, so Flare assumed they pulled it. The main area, where Luna was waiting, had a half circle area of what appeared to be some kind of padding, like a large sofa. Behind this was a cargo area that had been refitted with bars so it looked almost like...a prison cell. What were they planning to do with me? Flare though as he looked at this. Luna spotted this, and was quick to save the situation.
"Don't mind that, we use this chariot for many things. It was used recently for crime prevention," She said, indicating a point beside of her on the front of the chariot, "Climb in up here and we can be going."
Flare hesitantly climbed aboard, partially from uncertainly and also because he suddenly felt awkward around Luna. Luna nodded to the guard with the black pauldron, and he in turn barked an order to the other three and they were off. The chariot began rolling towards the edge and Flare was worried it wouldn't make it, but just as they reached the edge, the chariot lifted from the ground and began to fly off.
"How long will this trip be?" Flare asked looking over to Luna.
"About 5 or 6 hours, it's a long way to Canterlot, plus I don't want to wear out the guards by making them go at full speed." But Luna was not paying attention to Flare or the guards. She was watching the moon and the night sky, and for an instant Flare saw his mother a few nights ago, watching the moon before creating his father's glass tomb. Flare was breathless for a moment.
"I do that too," Flare said, joining Luna in her stargazing, "I used to climb to the top of the mountain sometimes to watch the stars on a clear night. It really is beautiful."
Luna smiled, "I know," she said, "I have had much experience with...space. It really is magnificent. Only nopony ever stops to enjoy it anymore," she said as her smile faded and sadness made it's way onto her face.
"The most beautiful things in this world are rarely seen by the common eye," Flare said, even though it was his father who told him this, "you have to look closely at the world around you to see the things truly worth cherishing."
Flare hadn't noticed that both he and Luna had stopped watching the sky and were now looking at each other. They both looked away, blushing and smiling. They both resumed their stargazing, talking idly about nothing, simply enjoying the company. Flare was leaning against the comfortable padding of the chariot and soon found himself being enveloped by sleep.
"There they go, Twi." Spike said, moving away from the telescope to allow the purple unicorn to look through it.
"Wow, that dragon is older then I thought. I was expecting something the size of you," she said waving a hoof in Spike's general direction, "but this dragon is the size of Princess Celestia."
Almost as if on cue, Spike belched loudly and Twilight felt a letter bounce off of her. She looked down at it before levitating it back to her to read aloud.
I have a strange suspicion about this 'dragon'. It seems to be a completely new species. I am unsure of what to make of it, so I shall probably keep it here with myself and Luna until I can decide if it is a threat or not. Tell Spike I am sorry that he won't be getting dragon company anytime soon.
Spike looked hurt, completely missing the fact that this thing probably wasn't even a dragon. "I never really expected her to send him here anyway," he said glumly.
"Oh cheer up, at least there won't be anypony else to eat your ice cream," she said with a wink. Spike smiled at the joke but did not laugh.
The chariot rotated slightly, something shifted, and Flare felt a warm weight against his side.
Opening one eye, Flare peered down at the sleeping form of Luna lying against his side. His heart skipped a beat. She must have fallen over when the chariot shifted. He doubted that Luna was aware of who she was lying against, but Flare didn't do anything to stop it.
Flare sat there for a few minutes, watching Luna to see if she would wake up. A cold breeze added itself to the wind chill off the night, and Flare felt Luna shiver against him. It was quite the cold night already, and the wind chill of the moving chariot did not help it much. Although Flare had no idea what possessed him to do it, he, careful not to wake sleeping alicorn at his side, slowly freed his wing from under her. He extended his wing back down and laid it over her like a leather blanket, much like his mother had. He felt her stir under his wing, but not to attempt to free herself. Instead, to Flare's surprise and satisfaction, she moved closer to him, savoring the sanctuary from the cold.
My, she must be as lonely as I am, Flare thought sadly to himself as he watched the sleeping pony beside him, if she will snuggle with a dragon that she had only just met. She had not yet seen his special...talent yet, so she probably simply thought of him as a dragon. But he didn't mind. It felt good to have something to comfort again.
A knock came from the door of the bedchambers. Celestia forced herself to rise. She hadn't gotten nearly enough sleep, but it would have to do. "Yes?" she called.
"The southern watch tower reports Luna's chariot approaching," the soldier replied.
"Thank you," Celestia said, opening the door enough to look the guard in the eye, "gather the appropriate amount of guards to attend to the throne room and to escort out arrivals, I will be down shortly. Go." And with that, the guard turned and purposefully walked back down the hall.
Celestia searched the night sky for the presence of her sister and the strange creature with her. She could still sense her sister fully at night because they were siblings, but she could only sense the other creature dully. But both of them were radiating comfort and happiness. This surprised and elated Celestia; Luna had never felt this happy since the defeat of Nightmare Moon.
Little sis, what are you doing? She thought as she left her chambers to go to her throne room.
The rest of the flight went on with Luna sleeping like a filly at Flare's side. Finally, though, it had to end.
The pauldron guard looked over his shoulder and stopped short of speaking when he saw what was happening behind him. He looked at Flare and all Flare could tell he was thinking Nice move, buddy. "We are almost to Canterlot," he said instead.
Flare nodded in acknowledgement. He slowly removed his wing from aside Luna and prodded her softly to stir her. "Luna, we are almost at Canterlot," he said softly. Luna opened her eyes and looked around. She looked up at Flare and when she realized what she had just done she blushed profusely and looked away. She finally regained her composure and stood. "Get up, then. We should look presentable for Princess Celestia."
Reluctantly, Flare stood, looked around and froze. Passing underneath them was Canterlot, and it was magnificent. So many lights and colors, Flare thought, looking down at the massive blurred city-scape. It was much larger then the town Flare had watched from his cave. But directly in front of them was a large castle. Farther up ahead, Flare saw a long, flat area with lights, and he assumed this is where they would be landing. He was correct.
The landing was a bit bumpy, but Flare didn't mind. As the chariot came to a halt, Flare saw two sets of guards approaching them from a nearby doorway. Both had gold plating similar to their comrades who pulled the chariot, but these guards were more colorful and robust with their armor. They also seemed to radiate power. Flare dismounted the chariot, then turned and courteously extended a hand back to help Luna, although it probably wasn't needed. She blushed slightly and accepted it, but as soon as she took her hoof from his hand, she turned to one of the pairs of guards with that stone-cold look on her face.
"Welcome back," one of them said with a very deep voice, but Flare doubted he was faking the voice, "Princess Celestia will see both of you at once."
"Very good," Luna said, before turning back to the chariot, "as for you four, park the chariot then go get yourself some food and rest, you deserve it." Luna turned back to Flare and the guards. "Come." She said, as she proceeded forward. One of the sets of guards followed on her heels, and the other two, one of which was Mr. Deepvoice, looked at Flare expectantly. "You heard her," Mr. Deepvoice said, and he pushed Flare slightly to get him moving. Flare glared over his shoulder with a look of "Don't do that again" and growled, Mr. Deepvoice got the message and backed off. Flare then followed Luna and her entourage through the doorway. Before he passed through the door, he saw the same guard from the chariot with the pauldron smirk at him again. At least I have a few allies here.
As they passed down the halls, Flare was taken aback by the sheer size and magnificance of the castle. Then a thought crossed his mind. I really should be a pony for this meeting, but I guess it's too late for that now, the guards are a bit jumpy around me, and I don't want top piss them off, he thought as he saw a large set of doors approach in front of them. They opened as the drew near, and when Flare entered he noticed several things. And his heart skipped another beat.
First, the room was huge. Mom would have had enough room to fly laps in here, Flare thought. Second, there were guards everywhere, all of which had the same expressionless look on their face, but Flare could tell they were all watching him. Third, and most striking was the two thrones sitting in front of Flare. One was golden and occupied by an alicorn the size of Flare, who he assumed was Princess Celestia. She was completely white, except for the sun mark on her flank. Her mane flowed like Luna's, but it was made up off pink, blue, and green, instead of the sparkling blue of Luna's. She had a similar chest piece and crown to Luna's, but her's was golden. Flare noticed the unoccupied, dark throne and only then did he begin to figure things out.
"Welcome back, sister. And welcome, drake," she said, but her face was not happy, it was as expressionless as the guards, except her's had questions in her eyes, like Flare was about to be interrogated, and he probably was. But he wasn't paying attention to her, he was stopped dead at the first sentence.
SISTER?! Flare thought, recounting the little "incident" on the way here, Oh buck.
Flare glanced sideways at Luna, or, to be more accurate, Princess Luna. It all made sense now, the things she had said on the trip here. Luna, lunar, moon, thought Flare. He remembered the rumors, the tales his parents told him of Nightmare Moon, who was before Luna. He looked at Luna and honestly could never imagine her to be Nightmare Moon. Luna saw this conflict in Flares eyes and looked away, but here sister noticed. Celestia looked over at her sister, "Anything you want to tell me?" She asked quietly, Luna shook her head and looked back to Flare.
Celestia looked back to Flare as well, "Might I ask what your name is, drake?"
Flare matched Celestia's emotionless glance with one of his own. "My name is Midnight Flare, Your Majesty."
"Midnight Flare, hmmmm," Celestia said suspiciously, "that does not sound like a name for a dragon."
"That is because it is not a dragon name." Flare said deadpan. His parents told him Celestia was supposed to be kind and loving, yet all she was right now was hard as a rock.
"Then why do you not have a name befitting of a dragon?"
Flare shrugged. You can't do this forever, Princess.
Celestia sighed, giving up her emotionless approach, "Flare, I will be frank with you, for I am enjoying this about as much as you are. I have never sensed anything like you before, you appear to be a new creature entirely, and you perplex me. I am unsure over how much of a threat to us you may be, given that I was unable to detect you until just a few days ago, that is why I have all the guards and am being so harsh to you."
The guards behind Flare perked up at this, and Flare didn't like that at all. Neither did Luna, she glanced at the two guards with displeasure. They nervously shifted their wings.
"Princess, there were several reasons why my mother hid me from the world. Chief among these is because I have a special...ability." Flare almost said talent, but he did not find it to be such.
This caused both Celestia and Luna to raise an eyebrow. "Oh really, would you care to demonstrate it?" Celestia asked. "Or is it destructive?" Luna added.
"It is not destructive, I assure you, and I will demonstrate it for you," Flare said, taking a deep breath and looking at Luna. This will break some ice.
Searching his conscious, Flare finally found his pony form asleep in his soul. He awakened it and brought it out. He closed his eyes and shot out his wings, allowing for the transformation to go smoother. The guards obviously did not realize this, for Flare heard a sound like two pieces of metal clashing against each other behind him. Too late to stop now. He quickened the transformation, blurring his form as he drained his energy into the cycle. Every strand of energy in his being was devoted to this change now, and he was finished in seconds, as opposed to minutes. Mr. Deepvoice shouted, "He is a changeling!"
Chaos ensued. Guards charged out from all sides of the room, half moving towards Flare and the rest towards the Princesses. He had just finished transforming when they were upon him. He hadn't even had enough time to raise a hoof to protect himself when something struck him on the back of his head like a bolt of lightning and the last thing he remembered before blacking out was Luna booming, "STOP! STOP! I ORDER YOU ALL TO STOP!"
Oh, my head... Flare thought as he began to resurface from his unconsciousness. As his vision returned slowly, he was immediatly blinded by the brightness of the room. Blinking a few times to adjust his eyes, Flare felt his head to find the source of the ache. It wasn't very hard to find the large sensitive spot on the back of his head. Flare rose from the bed he was lying in, but lost his balance quickly. He was still weak from the transformation to move much. He glanced around the room to try to determine where he was. He was in a hospital, that much was evident. He had been to one before when he was young. He heard hooves coming down the hall, and he looked to the door, expecting a nurse or doctor to come through the door.
Instead, Princess Celestia came through the doorway. She smiled warmly at the weak pony before her. "Good to see you're finally awake. That was quite the...ability you have."
"Your guards sure thought so." At least Flare still had his wit. He smiled, then winced at the discomfort it caused.
"Yes, I am sorry about that. My guards have been a bit jumpy lately, and they mistook you for something that you are not. Though you could have done your transformation a little less...dramatically."
Flare shrugged, "And what did your guards mistake me for?"
"A threat," she said, turning toward the door, "come, let us walk," she looked back at him, "if you feel up to it," she added.
Pulling himself from the wall, Flare tried to look capable. "I'm up to it. Where are we walking?"
"Through the gardens, this way." She said as she walked out of the room again, although not very quickly, so Flare could keep up with her in his weakened state. Flare began to feel better as he walked down the halls. Celestia did not say a word until they were outside and in the most magnificent garden Flare had ever seen.
"So Flare, tell me, what in Equestria gave you the ability to change forms?" Celestia said, and Flare could tell she was teeming with questions.
"The reason I can do what I do, and also why my mother hid me, is because I am a mixture... a hybrid, as you would call it. My father was a unicorn, and my mother was a dragon," Flare held up his necklace for Celestia to see. He then answered the question forming on her lips, how? "Even though it was impossible for my parents to have offspring the traditional way, they were able to cast a spell, something involving them melding their minds together to make a creation with both good talents from dragons and ponies. The result was me."
Celestia stopped speaking, pondering the things Flare told her. "What is a changeling, anyway?" Flare asked to fill the silence.
"Thats what the guards called me when they attacked me." Flare asked to fill the void.
"Ah," she said, thinking, "changelings are deviant little creatures. They are emotional parasites, but they feed from positive emotion, instead on negative. They search the minds of ponies, finding things that they love, then shape shift into that to feed off of their affection. When you did your transformation, you did resemble a changeling; they are dark like yourself, with a crooked horn and bright blue eyes. I could go on for hours with this, but you would become bored."
"And what makes you believe that I am not simply a changeling still in disguise?" Flare asked.
"Two thing make this obvious. One, I have never met anything like you and loved it enough for a changeling to get anything of use out of it. Two, Luna trusts you as a friend, and I respect her judgement."
Flare froze. How did she know about that? Celestia stopped him before he could ask. "No, I did not ask her about it. But it was very obvious that she is fond of you. Since she is my sister, I will always have a mental link to her, and I can sense her mood and emotions. I sensed her comfort and happiness last night, and although it surprised me, it also pleased me. Ever since Nightmare Moon was defeated and Luna was returned to us, she has had a hard time readjusting to the new world. She has few friends and tends to seclude herself in the library. She seems comfortable around you probably because you are just as lost in this world as she is."
Flare was speechless. "Why are you telling me all of this?" He finally asked.
"I thought you might find it useful," She says, and winked at Flare, "and before you ask where she is, she is asleep. After she had the guards stand down, she moved you herself, which was very unusual of her, and stayed by your bedside while the healers worked over the hole in the back of your head. She said she felt guilty for bringing you here just to have you get injured. I finally had to convince her to get some rest. It was all very cute."
Flare felt very uncomfortable with this situation. "Is this really what you wished to discuss with me?"
"No, it was not, and I guess we should get back on topic. I'll be frank with you here, I need to know if you will be a threat to my ponies or not before I can decide what to do with you." She said, becoming serious again.
"But earlier you said that you didn't think of me as a threat?" Flare was confused.
"There is a fine line between thinking and knowing. You are part dragon, and I am concerned that you in turn may have inherited some of their more...unpleasant habits."
"From what I have experienced in my life, my dragonish appearance is simply that, an appearance. My core has no malevolence, as you have probably sensed. I would never want to harm any of your ponies of my own free will. I doubt I am of any threat to your kingdom."
Celestia smiled, relieved. "Good, I was worried that would be a point of conflict. With this in mind, I will decide what to do with you. Until then, you are free to explore the castle grounds. Dinner will be in oh...four hours," she said, looking briefly at the sun, "just follow the crowd to get to the dining hall when the bell rings. Other then that, you have the afternoon to yourself." And with that, she left Flare alone in the gardens. But Flare was honestly too weak to do much exploring, so he found himself a nice shade tree, curled up under it, and resumed his long needed rest.
Flare slowly opened his eyes. What time is it? He wondered. The he remembered "just follow the crowd to get to the dining hall when the bell rings." Flare was starving, so he forced himself to rise, shook the dirt from his coat, and made his way back to the castle. As Celestia had said, there was a fairly large amount of ponies heading for seemingly the same place. He joined the mob and followed them through the halls.
He felt a hoof on his shoulder, and as he turned to see who it was, his heart stopped. Behind him were the two guards who had attacked him yesterday, as well as some others, a few of which Flare remembered from the throne room as well. Mr. Deepvoice had been the one to tap him on the shoulder.
"Listen, whatever you are, we are gonna be watching you, so don't do anything stupid. We don't regret what we did to you last night, and if Luna hadn't stopped us, you'd have spent more then one night in the hospital wing."
Flare just looked at them with a blank, almost bored expression.
"Not talkin eh? We can fix that." He took a step towards Flare, and Flare quickly realized that this might turn violent.
"GROUP ATTEN-HUT!!!!" a voice boomed down the hall, and immediatly the gang of guards snapped straight, hooves clicking in sync with each other. Flare looked to see where the command came from, and saw a white unicorn coming towards them. He had a very robust uniform, which was much more decorated then the other guards. At his side was the pauldron guard from the chariot. They stopped beside of Flare, and the unicorn nodded apologetically to him. "'My apologies, my guards have been a bit rowdy lately. Now Thorn, what is the meaning of this?"
Thorn maintained his bearing, but Flare saw pure hatred flash through his eyes. "I was simply ensuring that the new arrival would not a be a threat, sir" The unicorn failed to notice the way Thorn said 'sir' like it was a lesser title then his, or if he did, he showed no signs of it.
"And what evidence do you have that he is of any threat to anypony? Celestia and Luna both trust him, and he has showed no signs of being harmful in any way. You are jumping to unsupported conclusions again, just like that changeling remark when you attacked him the first time. You need to relax, even if there is a threat against Canterlot, assaulting random arrivals will not solve the problem. Now go to chow, all of you."
He turned to flare as the mob left. "Come, we shouldn't be late for dinner, either. I'm sorry again for the conduct of my guards. Thorn has always been a bit hotheaded."
"I understand, but may I ask what your name is?"
"Ah, where are my manners? I am Shining Armor, Captain of the Royal Guard. This is Crusader, my second-in-command," Armor said, indicating the pauldron guard. "And your name?"
"Midnight Flare, outsider." He said, trying to add some humor.
"Well, it's good to meet you, Flare. I wish your welcome could have been a bit more...well, welcome, but you get what you get," he said, shrugging the incident off.
They arrived at the dining hall, and were one of the last to enter. Most seats were taken, but to Flare's surprise, Celestia had reserved two seats for Armor and Flare by herself and Luna. Crusader went over to the guard tables, where other officers were eating. Armor and Flare made their way over the their seats and sat down, looking over all of the delicious food available to them. Flare only recognized about half of the foods, so he settled with a large bowl of soup, since he was ravenously hungry. The meal went on silently, although most ponies would glance up at him every once in a while. Eventually he became uncomfortable with all the random glances and he discretely asked Celestia about it.
"It's simply because you are new and different. Also, word spread quickly about last night."
That satisfied Flare for an explanation, so he continued to eat in silence. A few minutes later, Celestia cleared her throat. "Excuse me, everypony, but I have an announcement to make," the lighthearted and nonchalant way she said this told everypony that they could continue their meals, so Flare continued to inhale his soup.
"Concerning our new arrival, Midnight Flare," she continued, "after much thought, I have come to a decision on what to do with him. Midnight Flare, I hereby assign you to by the personal assistant and bodyguard of Princess Luna."
Flare gagged on his soup, as did Luna and several other ponies. Celestia continued as if nothing had happened, "that is all, thank you." She then sat back down, gave Flare a wink, and continued her meal. Flare glanced at some of the shocked faces in the mess hall, and saw Thorn staring ice at him, and Crusader with that same smirk on his face.
The protests began immediatly. "Sister, I am in no need of an assistant or a bodyguard!"
"Yes, you are," Celestia said, calmly stopping her sister's argument, "with a threat against Canterlot, all of my staff and family must be protected. The world still fears you, sister, and fear can push ponies to do drastic things." Luna did not say any more, but pouted as she ate.
Shining Armor was the nest pony to question Celestia's choice. "Your majesty, if Flare is to be a bodyguard, shouldn't he have some combat training?"
"Yes, he should. Have Roarad teach him pony and magic fighting techniques, and also have Concord Dawn teach him how to use his dragon wings to fight as well. They will both be happy not to have to do guard duty for a few days." And that was all that was said on the subject. Dinner finished just as quickly as it had started. Ponies stood and left as they finished. Soon it was just the two princesses, Flare, and Shining Armor.
Armor stood and began to leave. He paused and looked to Flare. "I'll find you tomorrow at the noon meal to begin your training, so don't hide, I don't like games." and with that remark, he was gone.
Celestia and Luna rose, so Flare decided he should leave as well.
"Luna, show Flare to his new assistant's quarters, he is probably anxious to rest again. Tomorrow, Flare, you will begin your new role." Celestia then left the room, leaving Luna and Flare together.
Luna sighed and began to walk to the door. "Come on then, lets go." Flare followed her out of the dinning hall and through the corridors. "How are you feeling? That was quite the hit you took last night."
Flare was almost angry over how much attention he got over that, almost. "It's fine now, the healers here really did a good job if I was hurt as bad as you say I was."
"No flaws in your memory? Nothing?"
"No, why?" Flare looked over at Luna. "Princess, how badly was I hurt? I still haven't heard any exact details yet."
Luna sighed. "You had a hole the size of my hoof in the base of your skull, I was stunned you didn't die on the spot, although you almost did. I felt awful watching you sitting in that hospital bed, because I brought you here just so that you could go get a hole punched in your head and-"
"Hey, calm down, it's ok," Flare said, trying to calm the clearly distraught Luna, "I'm fine now, and that's all that matters. Don't beat yourself up over things you can't control."
"Ok," she said, and she did not bring the matter up again. Soon they reached the base of a large spiral staircase. Luna began to ascend the steps, and Flare looked up the stairwell. "You've got to be kidding me..."
"No, sadly, both my quarters and my sister's are located atop towers. Its a bit of a climb, but at least it has a good view at the top."
Flare sighed and followed Luna up the stairs.
"I saw that you met Shining Armor already."
"More like he saved me from another hole in my head," Luna gave him a worried glance, "It seems that while you and your sister trust me, some of the guards are still suspicious of me. A few of them caught up with me before dinner. Armor showed up before it got out of control, and that was about it."
Luna was surprised by this. "Was it Thorn again? He has always been a bit of a bonehead. I could make sure he isn't a threat anymore and-"
"No, Luna, it's fine, Armor has it under control," Flare said, interrupting her, "and I can take care of myself, you don't have to be so worried about me."
Luna said nothing, and they continued to climb the stairs in silence. Flare considered flying up the stairs as a dragon, but figured it was too small and he would get sick flying in a circle for so long. At last they reached the top. There was a large set of doors and a smaller pair. Flare figured the rest out from there.
"Goodnight Flare," Luna said as Flare stumbled towards his doors, he was exhausted by the stairs.
"Oh, and Flare," She said before he could escape into his new quarters.
"You don't have to call me 'Princess'." And with that, she was gone.
Flare grinned, then drowsily pulled himself into his room, closed the door behind him, and fell into his new bed. The only thing he was able to notice about the room before sleep embraced him was how soft the bed was.
"Flare..." a voice said, dragging Flare from his sleep. He did nothing, though, hoping it would leave. It did not.
"Flare, wake up" it said again, and this time he felt a nudge in his ribs. Go away. he thought, trying one last time to reenter sleep.
"WAKE UP!" The voice boomed. Flare, shocked and dazed, rolled and fell from the bed onto the floor in a heap of blankets. He drowsily looked up to see Luna laughing above him.
"Very funny," he said as he pulled himself off of the ground, "I'll get you for that some day."
Luna smiled at him. "I'm sure you will. Do you know what time it is? You already missed the morning meal and lunch is only in a few hours."
No wonder I'm so hungry. Flare said, and his stomach growled almost as if on cue. He grinned sheepishly. "It was worth the extra sleep."
"I bet it was. Now come, we have work to do before lunch." Luna made Flares bed quickly with magic. "I'll teach you proper etiquette later."
Flare was going to question this, but then he remembered the training he would have in the afternoon. "Ok then, where are we heading?" he said following Luna from the room.
"The library. That is where I do most of my working and studying."
"Oh great," Flare mumbled under his breath. He remembered little of libraries from when he was young, but what he did remember was that they weren't very fun.
"I heard that, you know," Luna said, but smiled lightheartedly, "but I think you will find this library more entertaining then the others you have been to."
Flare doubted that. He was capable of basic reading, but he never found it very interesting.
But he soon discovered that the Canterlot library was much different then the other libraries. It was absolutely huge. It had multiple levels, separate wings devoted to the works of different ponies. Wooden replicas of major feats hung from the ceiling and were displayed in glass cases. Flare gaped at all of it, it was all overwhelming. Luna smirked at him. "You can look at the displays later, we have work to do," she said as she made her way to a desk full of papers and books.
Flare looked at the jungle of paperwork. "Is this what you do for a job here?"
"Yep, this is my job around here, other then being Princess, which I do little of anyway." Luna said as she sat down behind the desk, put on a pair of hilariously large glasses, and began to work on the first of the endless papers. Flare tried to hide his amusement, but failed badly.
"What?" Luna asked, looking over the top of the glasses at Flare, but this just caused Flare to start laughing. This brought a few admonishing glances from around the library, so he quieted down.
"It's the glasses, you look ridiculous."
"I know, Celestia told me the same thing, but I like them, they let me feel more like I fit in here. Now, if you are done making fun of my appearance, lets get you some work to do."
"As you wish, Princess." Flare said, jokingly using the title he didn't need to use. Luna gave him a mock look of displeasure.
Then the boring stuff began. Luna told him about how she worked with governing systems in the land, taxes, laws, boring things that Flare knew little about. So the remainder of the morning Luna gave Flare problems to solve, like finding a loophole in a simple system, giving him a basic idea about governing...and Flare hated and enjoyed every moment of it. He despised protocols and regulations, or just government in general, they were so boring, complicated, and useless. But he enjoyed Luna's company and had learned much by the time the lunch bell rang.
Luna sighed and looked up from the paper she was working on. "I didn't get nearly as much done as I wanted for us to get done, but it's ok for a start, I guess." She said as they made their way to the door.
"You could have woken me up earlier if you wanted." Flare said.
"I almost did, but the first time I tried, it was like talking to a log, and the second time, you looked so peaceful I couldn't bring myself to wake you." She said, blushing slightly as she realized how random the outburst was.
An awkward silence fell like a lead curtain for the rest of the short journey; the dinning hall was fairly close to the library. They sat at the same places as before and began to eat. Celestia looked over at Flare. "I didn't see you at breakfast, sleep in late?"
Flare grinned sheepishly, "Yeah, I did. Luna had some fun waking me up, though." He said, looking over at Luna who was failing at suppressing a grin.
"Yes, I could hear her wake you up from the gardens," Celestia said, "it must have been hilarious."
"It was, for her, at least," Flare said, giving a mock sense of glumness. Everypony at the table laughed, and only then did Flare notice the alicorn sitting beside of Armor. She wasn't there last night, he thought.
She was tall and lithe, pink in color, although her wingtips were magenta. She smiled courtly at his humor, although Flare saw little amusment in her eyes, only contempt and what almost seemed to be hunger. Flare thought little of it, and continued to eat. Idle chit chat continued throughout the meal. Flare soon could not bring himself to look at Armor and the alicorn; they seemed to be so happy, and they reminded him too much of his parents. Their loss, which Flare had stowed away until then, crashed through him like a tsunami.
He fought the anguish, though. He would look too weak if he started sobbing in the dinning hall. But he was unable to stop a single tear from rolling down his cheek. Luna, who was sitting across from him, noticed this, and sympathetically put a hoof on his.
"Are you ok?" She asked quietly, although it was enough to bring silence upon their end of the table. Flare swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded, regaining his composure.
"Yeah...yeah, I'm fine," he said, "just something in my eye."
"Ok." Luna retracted her hoof, but the look in her eyes suggested that she doubted his claim. The meal concluded in silence.
Armor met up with Flare in the hall. "Ready to begin training?"
Flare knew his answer wouldn't matter, so he simply nodded. "As ready as I'll ever be."
Armor laughed. "Yeah. Well, Roarad and Concord Dawn are already at the training fields, so lets not keep them waiting."
"So who was the lucky mare?" Flare asked.
"Her name is Cadence, Princess Cadence. We're engaged."
"Well, congrats. But how many Princess are there, then? I thought it was just Celestia and Luna."
"They are the main leaders of Equestria, but Cadence is more for publicity, to make the royals look good, because Prince Blueblood, while charming, was very self conscious and did not make the royals look too good."
As they arrived at the fields, two ponies, a pegasus and a unicorn, approached them. They both saulted Armor, who returned it.
"Flare, here are your trainers. Roarad," he indicated the unicorn, "will teach you colt combat and magic. Concord Dawn," he indicated the pegasus," will teach you flying and styles you can use as a dragon. That's all I have to say, so good luck." With that, Armor slapped Flare on the shoulder and left.
Roarad spoke next. "Alright Flare, I will have you for the first half of the period, and Dawn will have you for the rest. Now lets get started."
He led Flare to a small arena, while Dawn moved off to watch.
"Now, time to see what you already can do. Size me up and attack me, give me your best shot."
Flare was surprised by this, but he complied. At first glance Flare thought he could take Roarad. He was much larger then Roarad, but the stance he took told Flare that Roarad was far more experienced then him. Roarad's emerald eyes followed Flare like a hawk, so he slowly began to circle him, trying to get to a better spot of attack.
Finally he could see part of Roarad's side, so he attacked. He lunged for his ribs, but never made it.
A skillful hoof caught him under the jaw, then on the side of his head, snapping it around. His hooves were swept from beneath him, and he soon looked up, dazed, at Roarad, who was grinning triumphantly.
"Good try, you know some principles already," he said, pulling Flare to his hooves, "never attack from the front unless you have to, good. Your technique could use some work, but you think, which is vital in a fight. Now, enough talk, let's try that again."
Flare slowly became better at fighting as the afternoon progressed, and when Roarad had them stop he had actually won a fight...although he had lost twelve.
He then went to where Dawn was. Dawn was much different from Roarad. He was huge, and looked as if he did not have an ounce of fat on his athletic body. His voice was not as deep as Thorn's, but it was deep enough to be imposing while not threatening.
"I saw what you did to Roarad, or rather, what he did to you. I will not be that rough, because you can hurt yourself a lot worse flying than you can fighting. Now, I am supposed to be training your dragon side, would you care to fill that role?"
Five seconds later, a jet black dragon stood before Dawn, who was gaping.
"Now that's impressive. Anyway, lets get to work. I am sure you can already fly, so lets see just how good you already are. Follow me!" Dawn said, shooting into the sky.
Flare quickly followed him as he darted around the fields, dodging obstacles and observing as Flare followed. Dawn then began to swerve off from the course, flying around towers in the castle, and with Flare following close behind. They blazed by the library window, and Flare thought he saw a dark blue alicorn at her desk, but he was already way past before he could be certain. After an hour of this they both landed, panting.
"Not bad, a little loose, but overall pretty good."
Flare smiled proudly. He had proved himself to both of his trainers, and his pride overrode his exhaustion. He transformed back into a pony, sensing that training was over.
"That never gets old," Dawn said as Roarad and Crusader approached them.
"So how is he?" Crusader asked.
"He can put up a good fight, even if it could use some tweaking," Roarad said, "he knows little magic, though, so that will be our primary focus tomorrow."
"He can fly well, and is very observant. Roarad has more work to do with him than me, so we should adjust the schedule accordingly." Dawn added.
"Noted," Crusader said as the dinner bell rang, "you colts have had a busy afternoon, lets get you all to chow."
They discussed combat as they traveled to the dinning hall. Flare went over to the usual table when they arrived, avoiding looking at Armor and Cadence, though.
"How was training?" Celestia asked as he sat.
"That was quite the stunt flying by the library. You certainly gave the other librarians a fright." Luna said.
"Good," Flare said, giving Luna a fanged smile, "they could use some excitement. As for my training, it went well. My trainers say I am learning well, and I will only need two of three more practices."
"Good," Luna chimed in, "then you can spend more time helping me."
"Some much for 'not needing an assistant'," Celestia teased.
"Drop it, sister," Luna deadpanned.
The meal continued in silence, Flare noticed Thorn and his gang give him several evil glances from the guard table. Looks like my instructors wasted no time talking about me, Flare thought.
After finishing their meals, Armor and Cadence rose to leave, Flare glanced at them as they left, and the anguish from before hit him again. He quietly rose and left before he caused a scene, and neither Celestia nor Luna tried to stop him.
Luna opened her mouth to call to Flare as he left, but Celestia reached out with a hoof to stop her.
"Let him go," Celestia said, "some things are best left alone, even if it causes some grief."
"But Celestia," Luna started to protest.
"Let him go," Celestia said again, this time interjecting a small amount of force in her voice.
"But he needs somepony to comfort him. He's feeling this grief because he is alone. He needs to know that he's not. Sister, you may be knowledgeable, but this is one of your blind spots. This is what made me into a monster, not having somepony there when I needed them," Luna said defiantly, rising, "it's time you saw that."
And with that, she left Celestia alone in the dinning hall, shocked as the realization hit her.
By some miracle he found his way back to his quarters, where he fell onto his bed and gave in to his grief. He sobbed like a filly, gripping his necklace for dear life. Their faces flashed through his head. His father's glass tomb, his mother's sleeping form. And the question burning in the back of his mind Will I ever see her again?
"Mom..." he gasped between his sobs.
He heard his door close, recalling that he had failed to close it. He felt something beside him, although he already knew who it was. Luna set on of her wings across his back gently, holding him.
"It's ok, Flare, let it all out." She said, comfortingly.
She stayed by his side as the night wore on. Finally, his sobs subsided as he drifted off to sleep. Luna looked down upon the sleeping form beside of her. She then reached down, kissed him lightly on the forehead, quietly rose, and left him to sleep.
Hey everybody, sorry about the delay in getting this out. This was a pain of a chapter to make. I didn't like the plot at first, but now I am glad I made it, and I hope you are, too.
"Flare," Luna said softly the next morning, trying to rouse him. Remembering what had occurred last time, Flare did not resist, and promptly complied and rose.
"More eager today I see."
"No, just not as stupid," Flare said as his stomach growled again, "I missed breakfast again, didn't I?"
"Yes, and as long as you are my assistant, you will miss every breakfast," Flare looked at Luna like she was crazy, so she elaborated, "since I am in charge of the night, I sleep in the afternoon and in the morning, staying awake for my work at night. So I miss breakfast, and you will too, since you will start following my schedule when your training is done."
"Ok," Flare said, taking all of it in as they descended the tower. But instead of going to the library, Luna took them out towards the gates.
"Uh, Luna, where are we going?"
"Oh yes, I almost forgot to tell you. Some friends from another town are coming for Shining Armors wedding. Celestia is sending use to meet them at the station. Also, it might be useful to be a dragon for this, that is what they probably will be expecting."
"They must have been important to travel all the way here for the wedding." Flare said, his figure blurring as he switched forms. It was quite the hike to get to Canterlot, with it situated on a mountainside.
"Yes. They are quite important. They are Armor's sister and her friends. They will be assisting with the wedding."
"He has a sister? Interesting, and how do they know about me?" Flare said as they walked down the streets of Canterlot. Many ponies gave them strange looks, most of which had fear in them. Some were scared of Luna, but they were probably a bit unnerved by a dragon walking down the road.
Luna was oblivious of the looks, or if she saw them, she gave no sign. "They are from the town near where you lived. Ponyville. Armor's sister, Twilight Sparkle, was the pony who spotted you and your mother and reported it to Celestia."
"So that's how you found me."
"Yes, and we almost sent you back to Ponyville, but we decided to keep you here, where you would be more useful."
"Right, more like you didn't feel like sharing." Flare said jokingly. Luna laughed at this, and that brought more glances then before.
As walked through the streets, Flare also noticed a lot of guards watching over the city. This was especially true at the train station, where there were guards lined up in rows by the train cars, with two holding spears inter crossed. Flare spotted Dawn and Roarad holding spears crossed in front of a group of ponies that had just exited the train. Flare assumed this was the group they had been sent to retrieve.
As they approached Flare caught only a bit of the conversation between the ponies, with one, a purple unicorn with a navy blue mane and highlights, defiantly making her way between Dawn and Roarad, surprising them both. "Yeah. Congratulate. And then give him a piece of my mind."
"Hello Princess," She said, storming past Luna and completely ignoring Flare. She seemed to be radiating irritation.
"Was that Armor's sister?"
"Yes, but she isn't usually like that. Sorry." Luna said apologetically.
"Don't be sorry for me, it looks like Armor is about to get a beating."
"Yes, it seems so. Anyway, let us go meet the rest of the group." Luna said as the other six made their way past Dawn and Roarad.
Two of the ponies were regular earth ponies; one was orange, with emerald eyes, a blonde mane, and a cowboy hat. The other was pink with a fitting poofy pink mane. If her eyes were any lighter blue she would look like a psychopath, but they simply made her look energetic, which she was.
Two others were pegasi. The first was light blue with a rainbow mane and a tomboyish grin on her face. She seemed very athletic and emulated confidence. The other was the opposite, a yellow pegasus with a smooth pink mane, and eyes almost the color of Luna's. She was regarding Flare fearfully, half hiding behind the fifth pony, a white unicorn with a deep purple main that was very neatly kept.
But it was the sixth figure that surprised Flare. Standing with this group of ponies was...a small purple dragon. Flare looked down at him with a surprised expression, and he returned it.
"You're that dragon from the mountain, aren't you?" The dragon said, teeming with excitement.
"Spike! Don't be so rude," the white unicorn said, admonishingly, "I'm sorry, Princess, drake, for the lack of manners of our companion."
"No need, Rarity," Luna said happily, "Flare, allow me to introduce you to the group. This is Rarity."
"How do you do?" She said politely.
"Howdy," the orange earth pony said with an astonishingly strong accent.
"HI!" the pink pony said rather loudly.
The pegasus squeaked something, moving farther behind Rarity.
"And you've already met Spike. Now Flare, would you be so kind as to carry these mares' luggage?"
"Sure," Flare said, making his way around the group and by Dawn and Roarad. He went into the train and emerged a few minutes later carrying about twenty bags and boxes. He had to stand upright to hold it all.
"Are you sure this isn't a cargo train?" Flare asked sarcastically.
"Sorry Flare, I had to bring most of my dress making supplies with me." Rarity said sheepishly.
"Along with all a'her makeup." Applejack added.
"Well, I'm sorry if some of us want to look good in the presence of royalty."
"Mares, calm down, it's fine," Flare said, making his way back through Dawn and Roarad, who moved to give him room. As he passed, Dawn whispered, "Nice move, Romeo." Flare didn't get the joked.
"So where is all of this stuff heading?" Flare asked.
"My sister had reserved a royal suite for each of you within the castle." Luna said nonchalantly, although it was not received that way. The ponies were shocked, and Rarity looked about ready to faint.
Great, Flare thought, I gotta lug all this junk all the way back to the castle. But he sucked it up and kept going.
"So Flare," Spike began, "you're Luna's assistant?"
"Yep, and bodyguard. Not a bad deal, if you ask me."
"Yeah, I'm Twilight's assistant. Have been for as long as I can remember."
"Yeah, she's pretty much a sister to me."
"Well, judging by the way she stormed off, I don't know whether or not that's a good thing."
Spike winced, "She's pretty pissed. Armor never told her he was engaged, and that really ticked her."
"I don't blame her, I'd be pretty mad too."
"Yeah, but she'll get over it in a day or so."
Flare lowered his voice so only Spike could hear. "Why is Fluttershy so afraid of me?"
"It's because your a large dragon. She's fine with me because I'm small, and most other animals, but she is petrified of dragons your size or bigger."
"I'm glad she has her friends to back her up, I'd hate to see what would happen if she was alone." Flare said as they entered the castle lobby. Several ponies appeared to relieve Flare of his cargo. After the weights were removed, Flare stretched his wings and sore arms, letting out a small puff of smoke from his nostrils.
"Eep!" Fluttershy squeaked, hiding behind Rainbow Dash, who rolled her eyes.
"Come on, Fluttershy. He isn't going to eat you, quit being so shy." She said, trying to instill some bravery into her companion.
"Sorry, maybe she won't be so afraid of me as this," Flare said, deciding it was as good of a time as any to show them is 'talent'.
All six of them stood, shocked, as Flare turned from a dragon into a pony. After he finished, he grinned at them.
"How the hay did you do that?" Applejack asked.
"Special ability," Flare deadpanned.
"Does it...does it hurt?" Fluttershy said, peaking out from behind Rainbow Dash.
"Not at all, it actually is quite invigorating."
"Wait," Spike said, confused, "does that mean you are a pony or a dragon?"
"Neither," Luna said, "he is neither species, he is a mixture between the two. Pony is soul, dragon in determination, and both in appearance."
Flare felt his face heat up at this assessment. Luckily, he was saved by the lunch bell.
When they reached the dinning hall, Flare noticed that the seating arrangement was different. Celestia had the seven new arrivals sitting by her, although Twilight was still nowhere to be seen. She had also moved Flare and Luna farther from Cadence and Armor, and Flare was thankful of that. He doubted he had any tears left to give after the previous night. Lunch went by uneventfully, with Celestia catching up on events with the visitors, and Cadence informing them on their roles with the wedding. As lunch ended, Flare began to head to the training fields, wondering what he would learn in training today.
"Alright, Flare, today we are going to teach you some magic. Since you can fly pretty good, Dawn will be taking over your combat, so we can work more on magic," Roarad said happily, "for right now, though, it is time for an anatomy/ history lesson."
"Oh great," Flare grumbled under his breath.
"I heard that, but I choose to ignore it," Roarad, becoming more serious, "I will teach you six types of spells, three offensive and three defensive. We will start with the offensive. There are three primary types of offensive spells: fire, ice, and lightning. First we start with the easiest, fire."
Flare perked up at this. Being part dragon, he had much experience with fire, though none as a pony.
"I have your attention, good. Now, the power and strength of each of these elements come from a part of your being. The power of fire comes from you heart and your determination. To make an effective fire spell, you must picture in your mind something you love or are determined to achieve. Observe."
Roarad then turned to a row of dummies in the distance and fired a ball of fire at one, scorching it.
"I thought of my sweetheart back home there, and it gave me the power to burn the dummy. Now lets have you try."
Flare moved up to the firing line, and looked to Roarad for instructions.
"Alright, search your self for the fire inside you, and bring it to your horn, you should be able to figure the rest out from there."
Flare turned to the target and closed his eyes. Something I love... his thoughts flickered to his parents. He clamped down on it, bringing the fire it entailed to his horn, which began to heat up. It grew hotter and hotter, yet Flare did not care. When he felt it was large enough, he unleashed his fire."
"OYA!" Roarad shouted. Flare opened his eyes just in time to see the cyclone of fire he launched vaporize a dummy.
"Well, I think you have fire down. Lets move on," Roarad said, admiring the burnt dummy, "the next element is ice. Ice is more harsh unpredictable then fire, it is conservative and thinking, for its essence comes from your mind. Let's see you try it."
Flare repeated the procedure, this time searching his mind for the cold power of ice.
"Focus Flare, focus," Roarad said as Flare struggled to use his magic, "visualize what you want, visualize the target freezing."
With a cry of frustration, Flare focused in on the target. He visualized it with a shard of ice through it's head. His horn then went cold, and he felt a surge of energy as a bolt of ice shot from it.
"Good job, Flare," Roarad said, bringing up a pair of binoculars to inspect the dummy, "looks like a clean shot. Not quite big enough to kill usually, but the way you hit it in the next, ouch."
"Well, I was aiming for the head, not the neck," Flare said. Usually he would be drained from such magic use, but it took more energy transforming than it did firing ice.
"Still, it worked, and that's all the mattered."
"So now what? Lightning?" Flare asked.
"No, lightning is the most dangerous element of all; I need to make sure you can control the flow of energy before you use it. You have fired it in single bursts, but you need to be able to hold it, to tame it. Otherwise, you will electrocute yourself," Roarad said, dead serious," Now, lets try sustaining flame, Mr. Dragon."
Flare sighed. He delved into himself, searching his spirit for fire; he had little trouble finding it. He brought it to his horn, keeping it strong but under control. His horn heated up, and a ball of flame appeared in a jet black aura. He could feel in pulsing, pushing at the walls that contained it, trying to escape in any way possible. But it did not think, and Flare did. He sustained it as it fought in his grip.
"Go ahead, let it go," Roarad said after what seemed like an eternity.
Flare did not need to be told otherwise, and the dummy soon was a pile of ashes.
"Good job, now try ice and we'll see if you are ready for lightning."
Flare, excited, repeated the maneuver with ice, but it was much different. Ice searched slowly for a weak point in its containment, then lashed out at it with strong amounts of force. It was cold and thinking, and Flare used much more energy combating it, but he did control it.
"Outstanding, let it go."
A shard of ice the size of a spear flew through the air and into the ash pit that was once a dummy.
"Well then, that was some good magic use, I guess you are ready for lightning, but nothing big, understand?"
"Good. Now, lightning comes from the very core essence of a being, the drive of their life force, which is what makes it so powerful. IT is found in the center of your abdomen usually," Roarad said, indicating an area below his stomach, "but here is where things get tricky. You must control the flow of the magic, curving it around your heart on its way to your horn. If too much of it hits your heart, you'll be dead in an instant. So for now, I am only going to let you use nonlethal amounts of lightning. Now, give it a shot."
Flare closed his eyes and search his essence, his core, for the power. He finally found it, a fluid, electric force. He gripped down on it and began to move it towards his horn. He felt another, more experienced, presence, press down on his mind and restraining some of the electricity flowing through him. Roarad, he thought as he continued to channel the energy. As Roarad had warned him, he was very careful to guide the flow around his heart. When it finally reached his horn, Flare was almost overwhelmed by the tingling sensation it caused. It distracted him enough for his flow of lightning to swerve enough for a branch of it to hit...his heart.
The last thing he heard before he blacked out was a boom as loud as a clap of thunder.
Luna was sleeping in her quarters when a tremendous tremor shook the room, followed shortly by a clap of thunder.
She was up in an instant, moving out onto her balcony to see what the cause of this disturbance was. She looked down upon the training fields and froze. In the middle of the fields was... a crater. A guard was strewn to the side, unconscious, with another helping him. But at the center of the crater was Flare.
Oh no... Luna thought, full of alarm, as she leaped from the balcony and descended upon the scene.
"Flare?" a voice said.
Flare barely heard it as he began to resurface from unconsciousness. He stirred slightly, but that was about all he could do.
"Flare!" the voice said again, except this time more urgently.
Flare slowly regained his senses and opened his eyes. Standing over him was Luna, who was holding his head up with one hoof. He looked to the side and saw Roarad lying on the grass nearby with Dawn standing over him. "Oh god.." he whispered.
"Are you okay? What happened?" Luna asked, full of concern and oblivious of the other two ponies.
Flare coughed and tried to remember what happened. He felt like he had just taken a swim in electrified water.
"We were...trying lightning spells...something went wrong...was anypony else hurt?"
"No, just you and Roarad," Dawn called from where he was helping Roarad.
"What the buck did I tell you about lightning?!" Roarad exclaimed, having risen from his spot on the ground, "You nearly killed us! If I hadn't blocked off your magic, you could have leveled half of the castle!"
"I'm sorry," Flare said weakly.
"Yeah, you better be. We're not going to try something like that again for a while, okay?"
By now other ponies were arriving at the scene. Celestia and Crusader landed nearby. "Sister? What has happened?"
Luna set Flare's head back down and rose. "He was practicing lightning magics and he lost control of his spell."
"Is he okay?" Celestia asked.
"Yes, I'm fine," Flare tried to say, although he doubted anypony understood him.
"He just needs rest," Luna said, "Dawn, Crusader, would you two please help me move him back to his quarters?"
Flare slipped back into unconsciousness as he was lifted and placed on a stretcher.
When he reawakened, he was lying on his bed. Luna was sitting beside of his bed, holding one of his hooves in hers. He looked over at her and smiled weakly.
"Ow." He said jokingly.
"Oh shut up," she said as she rose and hugged him tight, "don't ever scare me like that again, you understand me?" Flare felt a hot tear that was not his against his cheek.
"Ok," he said, "and I'm sorry."
"For what?" Luna asked, moving her head away enough to look him in the eye.
"For worrying you so much. First the head thing, now this."
"It's ok as long as you don't do it again."
"Alright," he said, looking up into Luna's deep blue eyes. She looked back at him, and they locked stares for what seemed like an eternity. Finally Luna looked away and released Flare.
"Get some rest, I will check on you in the morning and rouse you if you seem strong enough."
Flare watched as she left, realizing the moment was lost. He sighed, then fell back and let oblivion take him.
"Comm checks. All security sound off," Armor's voice said in Flare's ear.
Flare had slowly transformed over the night; his dragon form was unaffected by the previous day's events and was strong still. He awoke the next morning with little of the weakness he had felt before.
"Stage team standing by." The guard named Hurricane said from his post on the stage.
Rumors had spread quickly about the explosion, and many citizens had panicked as a result. Celestia called an announcement for the public to calm these rumors.
"Celestia team, at stage and standing by." Crusader's cocky voice said.
Security was tight, guards perched on the roofs, watching the crowd for any suspicious activity. Since they were at a shortage of guards, and since Flare was still technically a bodyguard, he was assigned to Luna's team.
"Luna team, inbound to stage, ETA one minute," Thorn said into his headset. They were strange contraptions, enchanted by some magic to let ponies communicate over distances. Flare's fit strangely since it had been hurriedly adapted for a dragon's size.
"You're behind schedule, Luna team, pick up the pace," Armor said, directing the guards, "announcement begins in five minutes, Princesses enter the stage in four. Good luck."
And with that, his headset popped as he switched channels. The chariot Flare, Thorn, and Luna were riding on stopped. Flare exited first, glancing for any threats, before turning to help Luna off of the chariot. Thorn followed as they escorted her to behind the stage.
"Luna team in position," Thorn reported.
Celestia and her team were already waiting there.
"Sister," she said in a serious tone, "I do not want you to say anything during this, let me do the talking. Some of these rumors concern you, and I do not wish for the public to twist anything you say against you. Once it is over, we get back on our chariots and leave, stop for nothing, understand?"
"Yes sister, but why are you being so serious about the matter? You've never been so tense about these announcements before."
"Because the public is scared, and when they are scared, they start making scapegoats. Some still fear you, and that may drive them to do brash things. Now, no more time to talk, let us begin."
And with that, Luna and Celestia ascended the stage while Flare and the guards remained below, observing the crowd.
The crowd erupted in cheers as the Celestia entered the stage, but some went quiet as Luna entered. Celestia quickly silenced the rest.
"Citizens of Equestria, I gather you here today to discuss a matter of great importance. Yesterday at around 4 o'clock Canterlot time, an explosion rocked the training fields of the Canterlot castle."
The crowd began to stir at this, but they stopped as Celestia continued.
"There are several rumors floating around on what caused the blast, and I am here to address these claims. Some of you connected this to the threat on Canterlot we recently received, but this is not so. The blast was caused by a failure during a training exercise, nothing more. No pony was killed in the blast, though two were injured. The increased security guards around the city would have stopped any assailant from getting anywhere near the castle."
Celestia paused to let her words sink in.
"To the second rumor. Some of you have accused Princess Luna of arranging the explosion. These claims are absolutely outrageous," Celestia began to let anger and scorn into her voice, and Flare doubted it was fake, "My sister is completely loyal to Equestria, and she harbors no ill will against anypony. You still see her as Nightmare Moon, and you need to stop. Nightmare Moon was a monster, created by loneliness and grief. She is gone now, defeated by the Elements of Harmony, and my loving sister is here instead. You must learn to forget the past and continue on into the future. That is all I have for you. I hope my words have calmed you."
"Look alive, Princess teams, here they come." Armor said as the Princesses exited the stage. the guard teams smoothly met with each princess as the separated and headed to their separate chariots.
Then it went wrong. A barrier fell, and a wave of ponies with notepads and recorders began to charge through, droning questions like bees. Guards began to make another wall to block them, but it would not last long.
Armor's voice immediatly filled their ears, "All security, barrier down, barrier down! Princess teams, Omega signal, get them outta there NOW!"
"Flare, get her to the chariot, I'll stop the crowd," Thorn said. Flare nodded an affirmative. Now that the situation had become serious, any of Thorn's distrust or hate for Flare was gone. Turning back to the tide of reporters who were overwhelming the guards, he shot his wings out fully on both sides, adding another link in the wall of guards stopping the reporters.
Flare and Luna hurried down the alley for which they came. Flare scanned the area around them, adrenalin pumping. Suddenly, a red blur flew out from a shadow. Flare realized it was a unicorn, and it's horn was glowing and crackling with fire.
Flare snapped a wing between Luna and the assailant, as the unicorn exploded in a fiery blast. The blast was immense, both Flare and Luna were throw back by it. Being a dragon, Flare wasn't burned, but Luna was not so lucky. He looked from the spot where he had landed to see Luna lying limp nearby, her coat charred at spots.
"Oh no," Flare whispered, pulling him self up and running to where Luna lay.
"Flare, sitrep! What the buck just happened?" Armor called over the headset.
"Some crazy bastard attacked us. Luna is hurt, I am intact. I'm going to get Luna back to the castle, have something waiting for us when we arrive."
Flare gently scooped Luna up in his hands, careful not to move her much. Once she was secure, he leaped into the air and flew as fast as the wind would take him back to the castle.
As he set down, he was swarmed by a medical crew. As gently as he could, he laid Luna down on the medical trolley they had with them. Immediatly the doctors began talking, although to Flare it sounded more like chittering, with each other. Flare hastily transformed back into a pony, then hobbled slightly as he regained his balance; he was still weak from the previous days events, although not nearly as much as before. He followed the medical crew and Celestia as they sped Luna to the medical wing of the castle.
They soon lost him since they were traveling much faster then him. Once he reached the medical wing he simply followed the sounds of the doctors to a room.
The doctors were swarmed around Luna's bed, handing each other things, writing things down, and applying bandages and medicines. Celestia stood emotionless on the side, watching their work.
"How is she, doctor?" She asked the lead doctor as he approached her.
"She looks worse than she is," the doctor, and both Celestia and Flare breathed a sigh of relief, "she was knock unconscious by the blast and burned slightly, though it would have been much worse is she took the fire directly. We have given her painkillers and sleeping medicines, she will be out for probably two more hours, and she shouldn't do much moving for a few days to recover."
"Thank you doctor," Celestia said. The doctor nodded politely and left the room with the other medical staff.
Celestia walked next to where Flare was standing at Luna's bedside.
"Thank you, Flare, for saving her."
"I just wish I could have done more," Flare said remorsefully, looking down upon the sleeping alicorn.
"It could have been worse, Flare, much worse. Be thankful that you only have to watch her heal," Celestia said, joining Flare in watching Luna. She let out a frustrated noise and slammed her hoof down on the ground, "oh, this is all my fault, I should never of had her come to the announcement."
"Hey, calm down," Flare set a hoof on Celestia's shoulder to calm her, "there was no way you could have known this would happen."
"Yes, yes there is," Celestia said, a tear running down her cheek, "this isn't the first time this has happened. Several attempts have been made before, though never as bold or successful as this one was. I should have noticed the trend and protected her more."
"You did protect her more," Celestia looked up at him, "You assigned me to her. If I hadn't gotten been there to block that attack...I don't even want to imagine what could have happened."
And with that, the conversation faded away. The two of them stood beside Luna in silence. Celestia finally pardoned herself. "It will be better if you are the first pony she sees when she awakens," she said as she left, "oh, and tell her I left her some work she can do in her quarters while she rests." And she was gone.
Flare continued to stand beside of her, holding one of her hooves with his. He looked over her now mostly clean coat, although a few char marks remained where the burn reached her skin. Flare thought about what would have happened if he hadn't done what he did. Eventually he gave up this trail of thought, since most of what he thought of was worse than what had happened.
Finally, Luna began to stir. She let out a soft cough as her eyes snapped open. She began to panic, not knowing where she was. Flare squeezed her hoof and placed one on her shoulder to calm her. She began to calm down, looking over at Flare with dilated eyes. She raised a hoof up to Flare's cheek, then all pretense snapped and she broke down sobbing. She embraced Flare and he embraced her in return.
"It's ok, it's ok," he said comfortingly, "you're safe now."
After a little while Luna's crying died down. She released her grip on Flare and he released his. She then tried to get up from the bed but stumbled and collapsed before Flare could stop her. Flare chuckled as he walked around to the other side where she lay.
"Doctor said you shouldn't do much moving for the next few days."
"Oh great, now you tell me," Luna said with annoyance as Flare helped her up from the floor.
"Your sister said she left you some work in your quarters that you can do while you rest."
"Great, so I'm bedridden for the next few days."
"Eh, I blew up yesterday and I'm a bit better today, so you won't be bedridden for that long."
"If you say so. But Flare?" She asked with a hint of mischief.
"I don't think I'll be able to make it up all those stairs, would you mind carrying me?" She asked, blushing.
"Sure," he said, laughing. He transformed back into a dragon and scooped Luna up, walking upright down the halls.
"Um, Flare, how do you plan on getting up the stairs walking upright, I don't think the ceiling is high enough."
Flare looked down at her and winked. "Don't worry, with what I'm planning, I won't need stairs."
He walked out into the garden under the tower in which they lived. He spread his wings, and smoothly flew up the side of the tower, though not at any fast pace, for there was no hurry. He gently dropped down onto the balcony outside of Luna's quarters and made his way inside.
Just as Celestia had said, a pile of books and writing utensils were set beside of Luna's bed. Flare gently set Luna down on her bed. She crawled halfway under her covers and situated herself.
"Is there anything else I can do for you?" He asked.
"No, that is all I needed," she said smiling. Flare smiled back, then turned to leave.
"Oh, and Flare?"
"Thanks again for earlier," Luna raised up from her bed and kissed Flare on the cheek, then sank back into her bed, levitating the first book and quill over from the pile.
"No practice today, Flare," Roarad said to Flare outside of the dinning hall, "I'm still a mess from yesterday, and you're not exactly fine either. We could use a break, so relax for the afternoon."
"Yeah, I guess we'll do more training in a few days, since tomorrow we will be at the wedding," Dawn added.
Flare walked into the hall and hesitated; the table where he usually sat was empty. They must all be practicing for the wedding.
So Flare simply gathered some food on dishes and turned to leave with them.
"Where you headed?" Crusader asked, trotting up behind him.
"Just bringing my food and Luna's up with me since nopony from our table is here today."
"Yeah, rehearsing for the wedding and all that. Anyway, how are you feeling? That was quite the excitement this morning."
"I'm fine, since the attack was with fire and I'm fireproof, but Luna got pretty beat up by it."
"Yeah, so I heard."
"Well, I should get this to Luna before she gets too ravenous.
"Ok, see you around Flare."
"Yeah, you too," Flare said, transforming back into a unicorn so he could use his magic to carry the food. Most ponies had seen his talent before, but those who had not froze and watched in disbelief. Flare smirked, levitated the two plates of food, and walked out of the hall.
Flare was halfway back to the tower when Armor passed him. "Have you seen Cadence anywhere?" he asked.
"I'm trying to find her. Twilight upset her, accused her of being 'evil' and some other nonsense."
"Yeah, I don't know what's gotten into her over the past few days."
"She's probably just being a little overprotective of you."
"I thought that too at first, but this was too far." Armor said as he stormed off down another hall.
Well then, Flare thought, continuing on his journey back. Walking up stairs while levitating food proved to be tricky, but Flare was careful and did not spill anything.
He knocked once on Luna's door before entering. Luna laid in her bed where Flare head left her, although she had already completed several of the books Celestia had left for her. She looked up over the rims of her large glasses as Flare entered the room and smiled. Flare laughed lightly and walked over to Luna, setting one of the trays on the table beside her bed. He set the other at a nearby desk where he sat. "I see you still have those glasses."
"Yes, and I intend on keeping them, no matter what everypony else thinks of them," Luna said with a hint of annoyance.
"Ok," Flare said absentmindedly.
"What's the matter, you seem...lost."
"No, just pondering I saw something on the way over here," Flare said, his mind flashing back to what Armor had said.
"Oh really, and what might that be?" Luna said, her attention now fully on Flare.
"Apparently Twilight did something today, made accusations against Cadence during the practice for the wedding. Cadence apparently fled the scene and I bumped into Armor as he searched for her. Luna, he seemed pretty upset."
"That is strange, very strange," Luna said, puzzled, "that doesn't sound like something Twilight would do. She's smart, but not rude."
"Are you saying you believe her?"
"Not at all, but it does add suspicion to things. Twilight is rarely wrong, she thinks very well and tends to see things that others do not. From what my sister has told me, Twilight knew Cadence very well when she was younger, so I would almost believe her if she doubted Cadence's legitimacy. But I will have to think more on the subject."
"As well as eat more, you haven't touched your lunch yet," Flare said, changing the subject and feasting on his own assortment of food.
"My, when did you become Mr. Bossy?" Luna asked jokingly, taking a bite out of a bread roll, "what next, feeding me by hand?"
"If need be," Flare said equally as jokingly. They finished their meals in silence, and Flare with food in his stomach he soon found himself drifting into sleep.
Flare resurfaced from his slumber a short while later. He could tell by the change in light that it had only been a few hours. But those hours had been put to good use.
He looked over to Luna and almost laughed. She had fallen asleep halfway through a book. She leaned back on the bed, her glasses lying crooked on her face and the book strewn in front of her. Flare smiled, it was adorable. He quietly rose and went over to her, gently removing the book and glasses, setting them both on a table. He pulled the bed's blanket farther up; she stirred slightly at this but did not awaken. He then moved his own chair to her bedside and watched her as she slept.
His mind flashed back to the morning, when he had looked down at her weak, burnt body from the blast. She looked better now, though her coat was still slightly charred at spots. He sat and watched her for a while longer, then he heard the door open and close.
He did not need to look to know who it was. "Do you need me to leave you two alone?" He asked.
"No, it's fine." Celestia said, levitating her own chair to Luna's bedside.
"What happened at the rehearsal today?" Flare said suddenly, anxious to find the answer.
"Ah, you heard about that," Celestia said with a sigh, "I don't know what processed Twilight to say what she did, but she accused my niece of being evil and corrupting. Cadence ran away, and the rehearsal was ruined for the day. I have no clue why Twilight would say such things, and it troubles me because I have very seldom heard a lie from her, but her claims this time were simply outrageous. Cadence loves Armor with all of her heart, I know that for a fact."
"Well, maybe you should try looking at it from different angles, maybe that will show you something you missed earlier."
"Perhaps," she said, turning her attention back to Luna, "how long has she been asleep?"
"I don't know, I fell asleep before she did, but probably two or three hours."
"Ok, enough sleep for now then," Celestia said, and she nudged Luna slightly to rouse her. Luna's eye's fluttered open and she looked lost for a few seconds.
"Oh buck, I fell asleep in my work again, didn't I?"
Flare laughed and nodded. Luna gave him a mock look of scold, then looked to Celestia.
"Yes sister? You awakened me, so I assume you need to tell me something?"
"Yes I do, sister," Celestia said, her voice becoming a mixture of sadness and seriousness, "Because of your weakened state and the attempts against you, I feel that you would be safer not going to the wedding tomorrow."
Luna was crestfallen. She did not say anything, though, since it was true. The public was very jumpy now, and Luna had just barely made it through the last attempt on her life.
"I know, Luna, it's not a decision I want to make either, but it must be made for your safety."
"Ok," Luna said miserably.
"Hey, cheer up," Flare said, "I don't plan on going to the wedding, either."
"You're not?" Celestia said, surprised.
"You don't have to miss the wedding because of me," Luna added.
"I know. But I'm a dragon, people are terrified of me," Celestia opened her mouth to object, but he answered her question for her, "Even as a pony I have fangs and snake eyes. I would disrupt the peace of the wedding; it will be better for the public if I don't go."
Celestia still looked a bit shocked. "Well, I never thought of that," she suddenly regained her composure, "that was really all I had to say, Luna, I hope you feel better soon."
"Thank you, sister," Luna said as Celestia rose and left. She then turned back to Flare. "That was the biggest load of crap I've ever heard. You know we can fix your appearance as a pony so you would look normal."
"Eh, I had my suspicions," Flare said triumphantly, using a small amount of fire magic to heat up a piece of leftover bread to eat, "besides, I like my exotic looks, they make me feel special."
"special, yeah right," Luna said, "Though why are you missing the wedding?"
Flare shrugged, "Seemed boring. I'm happy for Armor and Cadence, but honestly I would be bored out of my mind at a wedding. And besides you could use some company while you recover."
Luna smiled. "Thanks," she said quietly, "I could use some company. But now I need some more sleep; I begin to work the night in a few hours."
"Alright." Flare said. He sat beside of Luna's bed as she drifted off to sleep. He then went out onto the balcony and watched the city from there. It was the usual late afternoon buzz; ponies going to and fro from the buildings, shopping, or just chatting with friends. Flare watched them, thinking back to when he would watch Ponyville from his cave only a few short days ago. He soon found himself dozing off.
Flare stood at the entrance of his cave. Confused, he looked around, not recalling how or why he was here.
"Flare..." a elderly voice called from inside.
"Dad?" Flare called, hurrying inside, "You're alive?"
Then he saw his father and gasped. His father was covered with burns and shards of glass. He looked over to the tomb, which looked to have been smashed open with some sort of explosive.
"Where's Mom?" Flare asked, becoming scared.
"Oh, don't worry about her," Strike said, pointing over to the other side of the cave. There his mother lay, or at least her skeleton did.
"What happened to her?!" Flare screamed, terrified.
"Her time came, as did mine, and as has yours." Strike said, stepping towards Flare menacingly.
"Dad, don't make me do this," Flare said, transforming back into a dragon to try to intimidate Strike.
"You always did prefer dragons, didn't you?" his father said, his horn beginning to glow with lightning, "You always liked your mother more then me, at least now you can join her..."
And with that, Strike fired the lightning from his horn.
"AAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!" Flare roared, ripping himself from his nightmare. He looked around as his adrenalin rush ebbed. He was still at the castle, on the balcony, safe. He must have transformed during his dream, because he was a dragon now. He felt tears roll down his face as he began to cry.
He turned to see Luna standing uneasily at the balcony doors.
"It's ok, Flare," she said, walking over to him and hugging him. He hugged her back, although it felt like he was holding her up also.
He did not cry nearly as long as he did a few nights ago; he was simply scared, and Luna's presence helped ebb that quickly. But he did not release Luna; the night was cold and she seemed happy with sharing his warmth.
"Luna...I need to go back to the cave."
"What?" Luna looked up at him, sadness and surprise mixing on her face. "Why?"
"I had a nightmare about the cave, I need to make sure my parents are safe still."
"How long will you be gone?"
Flare thought for a moment. "If everything is alright, I should be back about noon tomorrow."
"Ok," Luna said, looking down glumly.
"Hey, don't be like that," Flare said, lifting Luna's chin with one of his hands, "I'm not leaving forever. I'm barely leaving for a day."
"I know, but I don't like being alone. A millennium on the moon can change a pony."
"Then I'll make sure you're never alone again when I get back," Flare and Luna locked stares with each other. Slowly their heads moved closer to each other. Flare lifted a hand to Luna's cheek, wiping a sad tear away. Flare extended his neck the final foot between them and kissed Luna. She resisted slightly at first, then gave in. This lasted for what seemed like eternity.
Finally, though, it had to end. Flare broke the kiss, turned, and leaped into the night sky, glancing at the stars to tell which way to head. Luna opened a hole in the sphere surrounding the city for him to pass through. He looked one last time back at Luna, then turned and flew off into the night.
The sun had just begun to rise over the horizon when Flare flew over the top of his former home. He landed on the summit of the mountain, where the tracks from the chariot still left marks on the ground. It really hasn't been that long, has it?
He started to walk down the trail to the cave, where grass had just begun to grow along the beat path he had walked every morning. He paused to look down on the town again, to watch it's day begin. He soon felt a strong sense of nostalgia, and began to walk again.
He hesitated when he reached the cave entrance. The events in his nightmare still haunted him. He quickly calmed himself then stepped into the cave. Everything was as had been when he left. His fathers tomb was whole and intact, and his mother's frost white form still lay curled up beside of it. He breathed a sigh of relief as he walked farther into the cave. He sat in the middle and looked at his parents.
He heard a rustling behind him. He spun around in time to see two black blurs shoot out of the shadows at him, their horns glowing a sick shade of green. He breathed a torrent of flame into the first one, stopping it in its tracks. He caught the other in his hand and slammed it into the ground, continuing his stream f fire until the first creature stopped moving. A strange stench filled the cave, but Flare ignored it as he turned his attention back to the second creature which he held.
It felt strange. It had a smooth exoskeleton, like a giant insect of some kind. It's eyes glowed light blue, with milky white pupils. Its horn was crooked and it's wings were thin and translucent. It's hooves were holed. There was no fear in its eyes, only triumph. Flare barred his teeth at the creature.
"What in the name of Equestria are you?" He growled.
"We are whatever you love and hate, we are what is seen and unseen," the creature said, but it spoke no words. Flare heard the message from inside his own mind, "We are whatever we wish to be. We are the hive, we are the Changelings."
"Why are you here? What do you gain from invading my home?" Flare said, tightening his grip.
"We gain many things from our actions here," the changeling taunted, "We bring the mighty beast away from it's duty. We learn your weakness, and we use it."
With that, the changeling transformed in a burst of green fire. Flare no longer held the insectoid, but instead now clutched a copy of his father. It grinned victoriously at Flare shock.
"Yes, your surprise, your love, it satisfies us. But what is this? the creature said as Flare felt it sorting through his mind, his memories, consuming his feelings like bread, "Another pony? Interesting...Ah, her..."
The changeling transformed again, this time into Luna.
"It is a shame," the changeling chided, "That you will never see her again. As we speak, my brothers and sisters are destroying your precious Canterlot. No pony will be spared. Not the pegasus who despises you, not the unicorn who teaches you, and certainly not the alicorn you so adore."
It began to pour images into his mind. Changelings surrounding the city, hammering on its wall as cracks slowly began to appear.
"And no guards will see us until it is too late. They are all at the wedding. You should have paid attention to the warning yesterday while you still could. That purple unicorn was very observant, so we had to eliminate her," the changeling said victoriously, "our wolf in sheep's clothing is very powerful now. Your lands will fall, all because you could not see through the fog of love."
Flare's fear suddenly began to boil into a white hot rage. The monster he held continued anyway.
"You must understand, we do this with no hatred against your kind, but simply for the survival of our own. We need food, and you provide an ample source. If you strike me down here and now, you will do nothing to stop us. I am merely a finger of the hive, an appendage that has served its purpose to buy time for the rest of the hive. Do your worst."
It grinned darkly at Flare. Flare complied with its request, tossing it and its counterpart out of the front of the cave, then charged into the sky, turning towards Canterlot and flying as fast as the wind could take him back.
Hang in there, Luna. He thought. I'm on my way.
Sorry about this being a little on the short side. I needed to put this scene in but the time break between the other scenes and this one was I felt too long to include within another chapter.
Usually a flight to Canterlot took six hours. Flare only took four. He knew that for every second he wasn't at Canterlot, there was a greater chance of something awful happening. Throughout the entire flight, though, Flare could only think of one thing: Luna. All other feelings, fear, anger, remorse, were gone. The only feeling Flare had left was concern for Luna.
The changelings presence still resided in his mind. It no longer spoke to him, it simply sat in the nether regions of his mind, occasionally reaching out to rifle through a though or memory. If it wasn't so obviously evil, Flare might have considered it a companion.
He finally rounded the top of the final mountain. His eyes went wide at the view which greeted him: Canterlot under siege.
"Ah, the knight in shining armor returns to save the princess, how heroic," the voice said, suddenly making it's presence known again. It had a strange echo to it, like two voices speaking slightly out of sync. "And cliche.But the day is yet young still, and the fun is just beginning."
Canterlot was chaos. Almost all of the buildings appeared to have some kind of damage, whether it be mild burns or gaping holes blown in its side. Ponies ran terrified in the streets. Changelings swarmed throughout the city, pursuing the helpless ponies in formations of two or three. Guards were all but gone off of the streets, and those still out were trapped in some kind of green goo.
"It is a shame, though, that your guards did not provide much of a fight. No fun, no fun at all."
They all must have been caught at the wedding. Flare thought. The church was still relatively untouched, although that could not be said for the rest of the city.
He caught sight of the tower where Luna's quarters were located and almost fell out of the sky. The top was trashed. The roof was gone along with one of the walls. It looked as if a massive explosion had ravaged it.
Flare suddenly filled with anger, fresh and white hot.
"If you want a fight, I'll give you one." He growled, charging down into the fray.
He covered the mile between himself and Canterlot rapidly. He traveled faster than he ever had before. A funnel formed around his body and slowly began to sharpen. When it seemed that the walls would connect, the funnel exploded, shooting Flare ahead at a stunnign velocity and firing a ring of fire out with a tremendous BOOM.
Flare steered himself towards an intersection where seven changelings were harassing two trapped guards. He reared back before impact, striking the ground with his hind legs. The impact cracked the road and sent out a shock wave, which knocked the hovering changelings out of the air. They leaped to their feet in one simultaneous movement, their eyes burning with frustration.
"Hmhmhmm," the voive giggled, "You really think you can fight us?"
"We'll find out soon enough."
"That we shall." And with that, the changelings charged.
Flare caught two of them with a blast of fire. He used his wings to smash two more into the ground. He batted another away with a swipe his clawed hand. One crafty changelings tried to attack him from behind. Flare whipped him with his tail. He shot out his hand and caught the final changeling, hurling it through a nearby shop window.
He turned his attention to the guards after making sure that the changelings had stopped moving. He carefully cut them free.
"Do you know where Princess Luna is?" He asked them.
"No, but the changelings hit the tower early on in the attack. Crusader went to check on it. But we have more important issues now. Most of the guards are gone and the citizens are in danger." With that, the two guards charged back into the chaos.
Flare watched them go, then turned to take off for the tower.
The presence in his mind suddenly lashed out, digging into his mind like a dagger.
"You thought you could fight us," it roared like thunder, "How wrong you were."
"Whats the worse you're gonna do, kill me?" Flare said through clenched teeth, trying to distract it while he mustered the mental strength to force it out.
"No. No, we can do much worse than that." the voice said, twisting the mental dagger. Flare gasped at the searing pain it caused.
"We can control your sanity..." Another twist, Flare fell to his knees.
"We can destroy your dreams and memories, make them nightmares..." Another twist, Flare rolled onto his side.
"We can destroy your world as you know it... Another twist. Flare had to stop before it did something permanent.
"And there is nothing you can do to stop us."
Flare reached out and grabbed the mental dagger before it twisted again. The presence squirmed slightly at this, he must have surprised it "Wrong." He gasped, forcing it from his mind. "Get...out...NOW!"
The presence was suddenly weaker; it was not gone, but it was weaker than it had ever been. Flare was fine with that, since it could no longer harm him. He looked around as if pulled from a dream. He did not know how much time had passed, only that the attack was still happening. Taking off, he headed for the tower.
The balcony doors had been blown off of their hinges. Most of the roof was gone, and it looked like there had been a fire within the room. Flare landed and charged in. Luna was gone. There were signs of a struggle, though; what once could have been considered a changeling was pasted against a wall, several tables were flipped, and there were scorch marks on one of the walls. Crusader was lying on the floor, glued down by the green goo. Flare hastily cut him out. He moaned slightly.
"What happened?! Where's Luna?!"
"They took her," Crusader said weakly; he looked awful. He had burns along his body, and a nasty cut that started at under his right eye and carried across to the far side of his left jaw. His right wing was bent in an unnatural fashion. "They're probably heading for the church, that is where they took Celestia. Go, before it's too late." Crusader slumped, unconscious. Flare laid him back onto the ground, then ran back out onto the balcony, leaping into the air and circling in the sky, searching the streets for any signs of Luna.
It was hopeless, there was too much carnage to see anything. Flare sighed in resignation, diving back to ground level and landing. He found the changeling presence in his mind and opened it, although monitoring it to make sure it stayed suppressed. "Alright, I don't have time for games, where is she?"
"Oh, and you simply expect us to give up and tell you?"
"You will tell me, or I will crush every single one of you holed freaks. Now I'll ask you again, where is she?"
"Well, if you put it that way...no." the voice said with amusement.
Flare was furious. He snapped out at the presence in his mind, trying with all his might to crush it. Luckily he surprised it, and was able to hurt it slightly. It shrank back in surprise.
"Feisty, well then." the voice paused in thought. "All right, I'll give you a challenge. Your precious princess is in the throne room of your silly castle. If you can beat all of my children there, you can have her back. Good luck, you'll need it."
And with that the entire presence suddenly withdrew completely from his mind with a ripple of laughter. He turned and charged back to the castle. He wasn't the only one, though. Changelings were swarming around the castle, heading in through destroyed doors and windows. He burnt down a formation that got too close to him, then he rammed his way through the door and into the castle. For castle doors, they weren't very strong.
The doors flew off of their hinges and down the hall, past a group of surprised changelings sitting in the hall. They all leaped up and turned to Flare, but he quickly stopped them with a burst of fire. One jumped out of the way and charged Flare. He caught it in mid air and hurled it back down the hall. It didn't get back up, so Flare continued to press farther into the castle. The droning noise of wings got louder as he approached the throne room. Soon he was standing in front of the huge double doors that led to the throne room. He backed up, took a deep breath, and he hit that door with everything he had.
It did not break, it shattered. Splinters went flying into the room as Flare charged in. He looked around and froze. The room was filled with changelings. Luna was in the center, hanging from the ceiling in some sort of green cocoon. She tried to say something, but there was no air for her to speak, it appeared to be filled with the same goo that had been on the guards. But it were the changelings that got his attention the most. Half of them were copies of his father. They didn't get the act quite right, though, they smiled in a way that Flare's father never did. Flare felt no remorse for these copies, but he sure felt a lot of hate towards them for trying to hurt him with the memory of his father.
"Hello son," they said in unison, "how was your trip?"
That pushed Flare over the edge. He snarled at the changelings, smoke trailing from his nostrils and the spikes on his backs turning from a red glow to a bright blue. This was not what the changelings expected. They immediatly switched back to their original form, taking a defensive stance. They locked stares with each other, daring each other to make the first move.
"Well, come on, you bastards, you want to live forever?!" Flare yelled, charging at the wall of changelings. They responded in kind, swarming around Flare. He released his flames into the cyclone of changelings and dropped some of them. But there were so many of them. They all seemed to be waiting for a command.
Suddenly the presence was back. "Oh, how cute is this. The hero fighting the impossible odds to save the kingdom. I will enjoy watching you die."
And with that, the changelings converged. They all turned in towards him as one, their jagged horns all facing him, their blue eyes glowing in triumph.
Well, this is the end. He thought, spraying his fire into the closing swarms.
Then the impossible happened. A flash of light blew through the room, and suddenly the changelings were gone, swept away by some kind of force. Flare gasped as it passed over him; it was made up of pure unbridled love. It was painfully strong. Flare felt the part of his mind burn as the presence was ripped from him with an anguished scream. Flare felt like he had been struck by lightning, and his vision darkened slightly as it passed over him. The changelings screamed as they were sucked out of the room. Flare watched them, grinning, then turned to where Luna was hanging. The cocoon that held her began to fade away, and soon it could not hold her and she fell.
Flare flew over and caught her as she fell. He held her as she coughed up some of the green goo.
"Are you ok?" Flare asked, as the coughs subsided. She did not say anything, but simply started crying and hugging Flare. She really was weak; even though she was gripping Flare as hard as possible it was barely anything.
"It's ok, they're all gone now." He whispered softly as he glided slowly back down to the floor. He stood upright holding Luna as she cried. Slowly this began to fade away and she was soon in a deep sleep. Flare turned and began to walk towards the shattered remnants of the doors.
Celestia rounded the corner into the room followed by Thorn and another pegasus before he got there. She gasped at the condition of the room.
"Flare!" She called, although she lowered her voice when she saw her sleeping sister, "Flare, what happened here?"
"Changelings used my mind to send me away from Canterlot while they attacked. They captured Luna and brought her here. I kinda tore things up a bit during the fighting, sorry."
"Don't be sorry, you saved my sister, again. Just...try to do less damage next time." Celestia said jokingly. They both shared a quick laugh. It was not a laugh for the humor of the joke, but a laugh to ease the tension.
"Well, we would have been in trouble if not for that spell you cast at the end."
Celestia looked lost for a moment. "Oh," she said with revelation, "no, that wasn't me. Cadence and Armor cause that."
"Well, regardless, it worked. So what do we do now?"
Celestia thought for a moment. "We rebuild and repair, but first," she said, indicating Flare's sleeping cargo, "You should get her somewhere to sleep."
"Uh, that might be a tad problematic. The changelings hit our tower pretty hard." The tower. Crusader! Flare suddenly realized. "Crusader! He was up at the tower, and he was hurt pretty badly."
"Today just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it." Celestia said, obviously frustrated. She turned to one of the pegasi behind her. "Hurricane, get a medical team and take care of Crusader."
"Yes ma'am." The pegasus said, turning and darting from the room.
Celestia turned back to Flare. He grinned sheepishly. "She can occupy one of the guest rooms, if any are still intact." She said. "Thorn, show him to them."
"Of course, your majesty." Thorn said, slightly displeased. Thorn remained silent until they were out of earshot of Celestia.
"I guess... I owe you an..." he appeared to be struggling with his words, so Flare gave him a small prompting.
"Owe me what?"
"An apology. I'm sorry for doubting you." He strained out. "If you were like I thought you were, you would have run when you found out what was happening here."
Flare laughed. "Well I guess we can start new then. A fresh field of snow?"
"Sure." Thorn said grinning.
"Besides," He said, indicating his sleeping cargo, "I had something here worth it."
"Yeah, we could tell. Oh, by the way," His tone suddenly turned serious, "You do know that all of those changelings lying in the throne room are dead, right? Armor's little spell only got rid of the living."
Flare was shocked. He had never really thought of that. The idea of killing had never entered his mind throughout the fight. Flare realized he had never considered them to be living things, only threats. But there had to have been at least fifty changelings lying in that room. I never wanted to kill anything.
"Well, they were trying to kill me, so I had to defend myself." Flare said absentmindedly.
"You're feeling guilty, aren't you?" Thorn said, almost affectionately. this wasn't the cocky, hardheaded Thorn that had threatened Flare a few days earlier. This was the battle hardened Thorn, the knowledgeable warrior who could see that Flare was feeling conflicting emotions. "Fighting is never clean or nice, but you gotta deal with it. You'll get over your current problem in a few days. If not, I'll beat it out of you."
"Sure you will." Flare said as they arrived at a row of doors.
Upon further inspection, two of the rooms were missing a wall, but one was relatively intact, minus a few pictures that fell off of the walls. Flare carefully laid Luna in the bed, pulling the blanket up over her. He looked down at her for a moment, the kissed her on the forehead and left her to sleep. Thorn was waiting patiently outside. He pointed to the small contraption in his ear, which Flare realized was a small headset.
"Just got an update on Crusader. He was pretty beat up from the attack. He's down at the medical wing, want to go swing by and say hello?"
"Sure." Flare said, relieved. He turned himself back into a pony; his dragon form was tired from the fighting.
"That never gets old, does it?" Thorn said.
"No, it never does." Flare said as they walked to the medical wing, trying not to remember that he had killed all of those changelings less than an hour ago. "You have any family in the city?"
"Yeah, my sister owns a jewelry shop. Otherwise no. How 'bout you? Never heard much about your family."
"Dad's dead and my mom's hibernating." Flare dead panned.
"Hibernating?" Thorn said, lost for a moment. Then he understood. "Oh...so that explains where the dragon part came from."
"Yeah." Flare said as they arrived at the medical wing. Flare was relieved that it wasn't too crowded. There were ponies here and there getting treated for burns and cuts, but nothing too serious.
"Excuse me ma'am." Thorn asked one of the nurses in a courteous military tone. "One of our comrades was taken here for his injuries. Crusader? Do you know where he is?"
"Oh yes, him." The nurse said. ""He in here, right this way."
She led them to an ER room. Thorn and Flare exchanged glances before entering. With more ponies than usual in the medical wing, if somepony was designated a ER room, then they must need it. They both took a deep breath and entered.
Crusader was lying on the bed, and he looked awful. He had bandages on his two of his legs, and wrappings around his abdomen where he had been burnt. his right wing was in a cast. His face was heavily bangaged from where he was cut, but that didn't keep him from smiling as they walked into the room.
"Well, in all my life I never thought I would see you two together in the same room." He said, laughing, though he quickly stopped and winced.
"Broken ribs?" Thorn suggested. Crusader nodded, white faced. Laughing had to hurt.
"Well we just swung by to see how you were doing." Flare said. Crusader turned his attention to him.
"I'm fine, or at least I will be. But how is Luna? They stormed the room when I got there."
Flare smiled. "She's fine. She wasn't hurt, although it looks like she put up quite the fight."
"Good...good. And yes, she did. You'll have to wash those changelings off of the walls." Crusader grinned. Then leaned back into his bed.
Thorn and Flare stayed there talking to Crusader for about a half an hour. The nurse soon reappeared at the door.
"I'm sorry but I have to ask you two to leave. He needs his rest."
"Don't we all." Thorn and Flare grumbled in unison. Surprised, they looked at each other, then started laughing as they left the medical wing. Thorn seemed different now. Happier. Purged.
Yes, Flare thought as they walked back down that hall, heading nowhere specific, This really is a new beginning. For all of us. A fresh field of snow.
Thorn and Flare spent the next few hours wandering through the halls of the castle. Every now and again a guard or two would pass, usually carrying a tool or piece of wood. They either nod politely at Flare and Thorn or look surprised; obviously rumors spread fast about the tensions between them.
Flare himself was surprised at how friendly Thorn could be. His first impression of him was that he was a hard headed idiot who was prone to violence. It turned out to be quite the opposite, though. Thorn was generally good natured and they got along quite well. Now that Flare had his baptism of fire and had killed, Thorn actually seemed to have some respect for Flare.
Finally the dinner bell rang, echoing through the otherwise empty halls.
"Well, at least that still works, I bet the civvies would go nuts if they missed their meals." Thorn said as they began to head towards the dinning hall.
Flare was surprised to see that most of the formerly damaged walls and windows had been repaired or replaced. Wow, they must have worked hard to get this done.
Soon they reached the dinning hall. As they parted to go the their separate tables, Thorn hit Flare playfully on the shoulder. "See ya later, Dragon Boy."
Flare smiled and returned the gesture, then made his way across the hall to the table where Celestia sat. She had saved him a spot beside of her, usually where Luna sat. He smiled in greeting as he sat down. Across the table from him were two empty seats, presumably for Armor and Cadence. Beside of him was the yellow pegasus, Fluttershy, who visibly flinched when Flare sat next to her. Her five companions were also sitting at the table talking, although it appeared Armor's sister was leading the conversation.
"Rarity, how is the dress coming?"
"She will be able to try it on and properly fit it tomorrow." The white unicorn said proudly.
"Good." Twilight said, and Spike scribbled something down on a paper. "Food, Applejack?"
"Just gotta finish bakin' the rest a it."
"Great" Scribble. "How's the practice coming, Rainbow Dash?"
"It'll be bucking amazing, don't you worry."
"I hope so." Scribble. "Entertainment, Pinkie?" She asked, bracing herself.
"It's gonna be GREAT, just wait and see!"
"Hopefully" Scribble. "Ah finally, music, Fluttershy?"
"We, uh, just need a tad more practice." She squeaked, avoiding looking in Flare's direction. Nopony seemed to notice her discomfort except for Flare, though.
Flare turned his attention back to Celestia. "How is the city coming along?"
"It's better than it looks." She said happily. "Most f the damage is simply a broken window or burnt paint. Another day of work and everything should be back to normal."
"So what are we going to do about the moon if Luna is still unconscious?"
"I think I can manage it myself, although this really will be the first time I've had to do it. Luna was still able to do it when she was on her little...trip."
"Ah, ok." Flare said, chewing over a piece of bread. "Are Armor and Cadence going to redo their wedding?"
Celestia looked past Flare and smiled. "Why don't you ask them yourself?"
Flare turned to the doors where Armor and Cadence had just entered. They made an immediate impact. Applause slowly started at the guard table and spread like wildfire across the room. They both smiled happily and moved over to sit at the seats Celestia had saved for them.
"Good evening Princess." He said courtly. "Flare, I would like you to meet my true fiance, Princess Cadence."
Cadence smiled politely and extended her hoof for shaking, and Flare responded in kind.
"It's a pleasure to finally meet you." Flare said.
He could see why Armor loved her so much, she was beautiful. She was tall and lithe, with a pink coat that turned magenta at her wingtips. Her smile was happy and lighthearted, unlike the changeling that had copied her. But the look in her violet eyes suggested she had recently experienced a truamatic event.
"Thank you, Armor had told me much about you."
"Oh really?" Flare said, glancing at Armor. He simply shrugged. Flare smiled, but soon stopped when he saw Cadence's smile fade at the sight of his fangs.
Of course, Flare thought, I must look like a changeling. His coat was jet black like one, and his blue eyes and fangs didn't help his appearance much either.
"I'm sorry, I should have been more considerate." Flare said, his mane losing some of its glow.
"It's okay." Cadence said, still staring at Flare's mouth. Armor rested a concerned hoof on her shoulder, then wrapped it around her shoulder to hug her. An awkward silence as thick as a wall crashed down on the table.
"Well I must be going." Flare said, desperate to escape the situation. He hastily piled some food onto a plate. "Might as well leave Luna some food for when she awakens."
He quickly finished collecting food and hurried out of the dining hall. He noticed that most of the guard table was empty. Strange. They don't usually finish so quickly. He thought as he exited the hall...and almost ran into Roarad.
"Whoa, hey there! Where you goin in such a rush?"
"Sorry Roarad, didn't see you there. Where did the guards go?"
"You didn't hear?" Roarad looked surprised. "The drinks are flowing down at the local pub for all the guard. Come on, I was just about to head down."
"Well, I gotta drop this plate off at Luna's room." Flare said, indicating the plate. "And I've uh...never really had alcohol before."
"Well then, you're definatly coming with me." Roarad said, following Flare to Luna's temporary quarters and waiting impatiently outside. Flare sighed, pulling over a table and setting the plate on it. He looked over at Luna, who was still unconscious. She seemed so happy, though. She didn't look like she had just been kidnapped and held hostage. Flare watched her for a few more moments, but Roarad coughed impatiently outside.
Flare sighed in frustration, kissed Luna on the forehead, and braced himself for a busy night. I hope this doesn't go too wrong.
Just as Roarad had said, the pub was alive with ponies. From what Flare could tell, most of the crowd were guards, though there were a few civilians as well.
Roarad grinned wildly at the sight, taking up a cocky swagger as he entered. Flare eyed him, unsure of how he would look, then gave up and tried his best to copy Roarad. He was happy to most of the pub's patrons were intoxicated already, meaning he wouldn't humiliate him self too badly.
There were several game tables and gabbling areas, all of which were full of half drunk colts. Thorn and Dawn were sitting at the far edge of the bar, and called them over when they saw them. They already appeared to have had some drinks; several empty bottles lay on the bar. They had saved two seats for them, although Flare's strange appearance managed to clear several more.
A rather attractive unicorn glided up to them on the other side of the bar. She was tall, though not quite Cadence's or Luna's height. Her coat was a pretty blue-grey. Her mane was a turquoise color, and her cutie mark was a small glass of some kind.
"What can I get for you two gentlecolts?" She asked in a smooth, almost liquid voice.
"Hey Shotglass." Roarad said. "I'll have my usual."
"And for him?" She asked, obviously seeing that Flare was new.
"Ah, he had his first taste of fighting and killing today, hit him up with a Flaming Rainboom." Roarad said, winking at Flare. Thorn and Dawn started laughing at this. Shotglass smiled as she glided away. Flare swallowed the fear in his throat. They wouldn't purposefully hurt me, would they?
He snapped back to the present as Shotglass returned, floating a bottle and some sort of metal cylinder, which she was shaking. She gave the bottle to Roarad, then levitated a glass over and skillfully poured the cylinder into it.
Flare's eyes went wind as he saw the contents of the cylinder. A deep red, bubbling fluid poured from it, and Flare almost swore he saw a mushroom could emerge from the glass.
"Good luck, kid." Shotglass whispered, winking at Flare. She then moved to help another patron.
Flare sat for a few moments, staring at the fuming concoction in front of him.
"Come on, Flare, it ain't gonna drink itself." Thorn said, laughing as he took a swig from his bottle.
Flare sighed and lifted the glass to his nose, sniffing it. It smelled spicy, burning his nose. Otherwise, though, it smelled pretty good. The alcohol inside of it was evident by its smell. He took a deep breath, composed himself...and downed the entire glass.
It burned like lava in his mouth, and it had a strangely bitter taste. But Flare was part dragon, so he had little problem with the fiery taste. His vision blurred as he swallowed it. When the world finally came back into focus, Flare realized that his three friends had stopped laughing and were staring at him, jaws dropped.
"Nopony, nopony's ever..." Dawn stuttered.
"Nopony's ever what?"
"Nopony's even had an entire Flaming Rainboom in one swipe." Shotglass said, gliding back to their section of the bar.
"Oh." Flare said, looking down at the empty glass, before sliding it across the bar to Shotglass. "Can I have another?"
"I wouldn't suggest that. There's a reason nopony's ever finished one before."
"Oh? And what would that be?" Flare asked as his vision went black.
"Come on buddy, wake up."
"He ain't movin, you think we should get him some help?"
"Nah, here comes his help right now."
Flare snapped his eyes open, sputtering and gasping. He was lying on the floor, soaking wet and cold. His friends were standing around him, laughing. Shotglass stood to the side, levitating an empty bucket beside of her and grinning sheepishly. The entire pub was watching Flare and laughing. He felt his face heat up.
"It's ok kid." Shotglass said, moving back behind the bar. "Happens to everypony the first time."
Thorn reached down and hauled Flare to his hooves, slapping him on the back. "Good job Flare, you didn't puke. I did when I had my first alcoholic blackout."
They went back to the bar, and Shotglass had a glass of an emerald juice for Flare instead of alcohol. They spent the next hour drinking, and Flare slowly saw that his three friends were completely drunk. Finally, he had had enough of it.
He reached out and stopped Shotglass from giving Dawn another bottle. "I think my friends have had enough to drink for tonight."
Shotglass shrugged. "Suit yourself, have fun getting all three of them out of here, though."
Dawn hit Flare, reaching for the bottle. "Nooooo." He slurred. "Mah drenk."
"Yeah." Flare said, looking to the door. It was barely big enough for his dragon form to fit through. "If I were to say, do something freaky, how badly would the ponies at this pub react?"
Shotglass looked confused, and a tad frustrated. "Well, depends how freaky you are talking about. But if you're going to do something, do it quick. Drunk colts are very...jumpy."
"Alright then." Flare said, and he brought out his dragon form. The entire pub, including Shotglass and Flare's friends, froze.
"Come on guys." Flare said, picking up all three of his friends. "Time to head home."
Flare's friends said nothing, simply gaped at him. My, they really were drunk. Everypony in the pub made room for him as he walked out into the warm night. Roarad and Thorn were both out cold in a drunk sleep, and Dawn was dozing as well.
The guard at the gate perked up at the sight of Flare ambling towards him, but he quickly calmed down when he recognized him. "Ah, back from the pub I see. Designated driver?"
"No, just the last one sober. Where can I drop these dead weights off?"
"Uh, I would say just take them straight to the barracks." The guard said, indicating one of the buildings. he then brought the microphone on a nearby radio close to his mouth and spoke into it. "Sarge, we got three unconscious drunkards being carried in by the new grunt."
An unhappy voice came back over the radio. "I told them not to get that drunk. Oh well, they'll regret it in the morning."
"Yes Sarge." The guard said, setting the microphone down again. "He's pissed, don't linger around much if you know what's good for you."
As if today hasn't been hectic enough. "Ok, I'll keep that in mind."
The barracks was a long building that lacked any sort of decoration or emotion. Flare was happy to see that the door was big enough for him to fit through. As he entered, a cluster of colts who were playing a card game leaped to their feet at the sight of him. They quickly calmed down, though. One of them ambled over to Flare. "Ah, the three musketeers return again, drunk as a skunk. Alright, just lay them on those three cots over there." He said, pointing to the row of cots along the wall.
After Flare had set them down, he turned back into his pony form, turning to face the guard again. "That's quite the talent, ain't it?"
"Yeah, but I get used to it."
"Well you should probably get outta here before Sarge gets out here, he's in quite the mood tod-"
"ATTENTION ON DECK!" The entire room snapped upright, although Flare simply looked nonchalantly down the corridor at the stallion which was bearing down on him like a stampeding buffalo.
"YOU!" He barked, coming to a halt an inch from Flare's face. Flare just stared at him. "DON"T YOU KNOW HOW TO STAND AT ATTENTION?!"
"Um sir." The guard behind Sarge said. "He's not a guard sir."
"But he's classified as a bodyguard, so that puts him under my jurisdiction." He said, turning to face the guard and rant about speaking out of turn. Flare took this opportunity to turn back into a dragon and put on his best don't-screw-with-me face. Sarge turned back to Flare. "Now, back to...you..." He said, looking up into Flare's scaled face.
"Listen, sir, I killed about fifty creatures less then twelve hours ago, I'm not in the mood to deal with your crap." He said, promptly turning and walking by Sarge to the door. He did not pursue Flare, simply watched him go, his mouth open as if he would protest.
Out in the warm night air, Flare suddenly realized how tired he was. He stumbled his way back to the room where Luna was sleeping. She was still sleeping, though in a different position. The plate he had left for her was empty. Flare smiled as he curled up on the floor beside the bed and let sleep take him.
Hey Everybody, just a quick warning about this chapter. I got the idea for this chapter and wrote most of it drunk, so it might be a bit confusing. Just a warning. Enjoy.
When Flare woke up, he wasn't in Luna's temporary quarters anymore. He was lying in the middle of the throne room. How the buck did I get here?
He looked around, confused, and froze. The changelings were still lying in the room, scattered about the ground. Flare rotated his head around to look at all of them. He heard a rustling noise behind him and snapped his head around in time to see...one of the changelings open its eyes and stare at him.
Flare tried to stand, to get away, but he simply fell back down. He looked down at his feet, and saw they were bound with ropes. He tried to open his mouth to burn through the ropes with fire...only to discover that his mouth was roped shut. The other changelings opened their eyes and rose, watching Flare with looks of triumph.
"Mhmhmhmm." A familiar voice giggled. It was not in his mind this time, but behind him, in the room. "This is too cute."
Flare whipped his head to the door to see the source of the voice. The creature he saw honestly intrigued him as much as it frightened him. It was obviously a changeling, but it looked much different than the others. It, or she, judging by her shape, was tall, probably as tall as Celestia. She had the same holes hooves, twisted horn, and translucent wings as the other changelings. She also had the chitinous plate on her back like the others, though hers had green mixing in it while the others were a simple blue. Her eyes resembled a ponies, though the pupil was ringed. The outermost ring was a bright green, while the inner ring was the same blue color as her mane. She had black elongated ovals in the center of her pupils.
She wore a small black crown with blue orbs on each tip. Flare assumed it meant she was their leader.
Flare was surprised; she looked an awful lot like him. She had snakelike eyes like him, her coat was almost the same color as his, and she also had fangs.
If she wasn't being so openly threatening to him, Flare could have almost considered her attractive.
"What fun we could have had together." She said, as if she could sense his thoughts, which she probably could. "Too bad you had to spoil it all."
Flare tried to speak, but all he managed was a gruff mumble. She simply laughed at his effort.
"No need for you to speak. Not yet, anyway." She said, walking closer to him. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Queen Chrysalis, leader of the changelings." She reached down and untied the ropes on his mouth. "Now you may speak."
"Wrong choice." He said, opening his mouth to unleash a torrent of flame. But nothing came, and he simply coughed. "What? What have you done to me?"
"Oh, I have done nothing to you. You are doing this to yourself." She said, circling Flare. The changelings began to buzz in excitement. "Don't you see? No, of course you don't."
Flare was getting frustrated. He snapped his head out to bite her. Yet his mouth found nothing. He passed through her as if she were a ghost. She giggled at him.
"Persistent, aren't you?" She said, striking Flare on the side of the jaw. Hard. "This isn't your world to control. Although it is your world."
"Spit it out, I hate riddles." Flare said, spiting out bloody saliva.
She sighed. "You really are no fun. Fine then. We are in your mind, in your deepest of memories. The Dreamland. I can do whatever I want to you here." She said, smiling and raising his head with her holed hoof. "And no pony can do anything to stop it."
"But I'm not going to do anything. No. They are." She said indicating the changelings in the room. They all leaped into the air, circling Flare like they had during the attack. But his time Flare could not fight back.
"Sweet dreams." She said, kissing Flare on the forehead. Flare snapped his head back, repulsed. She smiled as she walked out of the room. The changelings swarmed in at Flare.
He closed his eyes waiting for the end to come.
Flare snapped open his eyes. He noticed several things at once. First, he was back in Luna's temporary quarters. Also, the world looked like he was underwater. As his mind finished waking, he realized it wasn't water, but he was looking through the sparkling translucency of Luna's mane. She looked up at him, her face drawn with concern.
"Are you okay?"
Flare looked around, his heart still pounding in his chest. "Yeah...yeah, I think so. I had the worst dream, though."
"It wasn't just a dream." Luna said, her tone serious. she tried to rise up off of Flare, but fell back down on him. He reached out with a wing and pulled her to him.
"What do you mean? Those things could have actually hurt me?"
"Not physically, but mentally, yes."
Flare was shocked. "How?"
Luna sighed, gathering her thoughts. "Dreams are not entirely unreal, they all have some basis from your mind, whether it be a simply thought or a memory. The changelings exploited this by pulling you deep into the Dreamland, as I like to call it. Since I am the princess of the night I also control dreams. But because I have been so weak, I was only barely able to pull you and Armor out of your dreams."
Flare looked into her eyes. "Wait, Armor was having these too?"
"Of course. He had it much worse than you did, considering he had much more contact with the changelings."
"Well that still doesn't explain why you fell on me." Flare said, changing the subject.
"Well," she said, crawling farther up Flare so that their faces were almost touching. "it was less effort then pulling you out of your dream."
"Oh really." Flare said, sticking his neck out the last few inches and kissing Luna. She giggled, kissing him back.
They both heard the door open at the same time. "Good morning sleepy he-"
The silence was so profound Flare could have cut through it with a claw. They both slowly turned to the door where Celestia was standing. She had a smirk of disbelief on her face.
"Well well well, what do we have here?"
Luna turned a deep shade of scarlet. Flare just laughed. Celestia joined him in laughing. But there seemed to be something wrong with the way she was acting. She seemed almost nervous.
"I'll just...just leave you two alone now." She said, turning and closing the door.
Flare looked back to Luna and smiled. "Now where were we?"
"I don't know Flare, where were we?" Luna said, her eyes flashing green. She smiled in a wicked, unLuna-like fashion.
The revelation hit Flare like a bolt of lightning.
"No...NO!" Flare said, shoving Luna off of him. She simply giggled as she stopped herself mid flight and slowly landed.
"Come now, Flare." She said, walking towards Flare. A ring of sick green fire started moving across her body, changing her from Luna to the changeling queen. "You thought you were free? That she could save you? Oh, how wrong you are."
Flare just stared at her in horror as she approached him. He suddenly glanced about the room desperate for a way out.
The window! He charged through it, and was thankful when it shattered and let him through. He snapped his wings out, flying as fast as he could away from the room, from Chrysalis.
but suddenly he stopped flying and started falling. He looked to where his wings should have been, but they were gone.
Flare gasped, still watching where his wings should have been. He looked forward just in time to see the cold hard street before impact.
"Flare! Wake up Flare!"
Flare snapped his eyes open. He was lying in the streets where he had crashed. Is this still a dream?
Luna was standing over him. "Get up! I'm going to get you out of this nightmare."
"How?" Flare wasn't even sure this was the actual Luna.
"We need to get away from here, then I can pull you out of this mess."
She took off down the street. Flare bounded after her. They ran as fast as they could through the city. Flare noticed that the city was also deserted. But he could not wait and ponder on it. They passed over a hill and there it was: the gate out of the city.
"Come on! We're almost through!" Luna said, running down the hill.
They were almost at the gate, so close, when Luna screamed and vanished before Flare's eyes.
"Oh, too bad. We almost made it." Chrysalis said, coming out of a nearby alleyway. She was in the form of Luna. Flare looked to her and back to where Luna was standing just a few moments ago. Was that really Luna, or just a trick?
Flare turned to her, his eyes full of rage and the spikes on his back turning white hot. "What the buck do you want from me?!"
"I want many things." She said in an almost bored tone. "My power back, food for my people, and oh yes, your sanity."
Suddenly the world warped and spun around Flare. When it came back into focus, they were standing in Flare's old home, the cave.
It was just like in his nightmare. His mother's skeleton lay on one side, and the shattered tomb of his father was on the other.
"And here we are, my dear Flare, where it all began." She said in Luna's voice, walking over to his mother's skeleton. Flare tried to move, tried to stop her, but he was frozen in place, only able to move his head.
"Don't even think about it." He was frozen with horror, watching her advance.
"About what? This?" She said, kicking his mothers skull. It dislodged with a sickening shunk and rolled away from the body.
Something in Flare's mind snapped. "No!" He cried.
She simply smiled at Flare. "Oops, did I do that? I'm sorry." She said, kicking the skeleton again. A rib the size of a spear separated. Flare felt the impact in his mind.
"It's only a dream, just a dream." Flare mumbled to himself in reassurance, trying to tear his gaze away from the sight in front of him.
"Oh? And what is telling you that this is just a dream?" Another kick, another missing bone, another flash of pain in Flare's mind.
"Because I just saw them two days ago."
"A lot can change in two days. I still have plenty of changelings that can make this vision come true."
"You wouldn't dare." Flare growled, looking back to Chrysalis with hatred in his eyes..
"Oh, but I would, and I shall." She said, grinning. Flare barred his teeth at her, trying to look as threatening as possible in his current predicament.
But deep inside him, he felt a shard of fear. What if she really did do this to my parents? She was twisted enough to do such a thing.
"Yes, show me your fear." She said, reaching into his mind and gripping it. "Ah, it is not much, but it will do."
Suddenly, the world blurred slightly as Chrysalis morphed it. The morphed so Flare could only see a rippling image. And it was of the cave, as Flare had seen it only a few days ago.His fathers tomb, his mother's sleeping body, both intact.
"This is the reality." She said as several changelings entered the picture.
"No." Flare mumbled, watching them approach his mother. They stopped as they reach his mother, turning to stare at Flare, even though they were not in the cave.
"I can stop them here and now, but only if you submit."
"You monster." Flare spat, his mind racing. what if this was all a dream, an incantation by Chrysalis? But what if this was real, and he was about to watch his mother's death?
"Time's up, make a choice." Chrysalis said with an almost business like monotone. "Submit to me, or watch your mother die."
Time slowed to a thousandth of a second as Flare tore himself between the decision. Who was worth more in this position? Him or his mother? He wasn't even sure this was real, but he couldn't stand the risk. Finally he came to a decision. You could repair brain damages, but not restore life.
"You...you win..." Flare said, resigned and in despair. The pain, it was too strong for him to bear.
"Yes! Just stop!" Flare said, staring in horror at changelings in front of him. He sobbed, going limp, although his frozen body stayed upright, and only his head sagged.
Chrysalis walked over to Flare, raising his head with her hoof. "It's ok, darling. I can make all the pain go away, all you have to do is submit to me."
Flare nodded, all the fight in him was gone. The last memory he had left, his past, his parents, was now crushed. The changelings began to back away from his mother, then the picture vanished and the two of them stood in a void.
"Its ok, Flare, it will all be ok now." Chrysalis said, changing back to her true form and adopting her true voice. She raised her horn and touched it to Flare's forehead. The sudden feeling that burst into his mind was extremely intense. His snake pupils closed up into almost invisible slits. Her presence, the changeling's presence, swarmed out into his mind, gripping every fiber of his being. the world around they shuddered as his very essence was gripped by the presence...and altered.
His memories started to bend, to change. Did his father die from natural causes, or was he murdered? Did he willingly go with Luna, or was he forced? Was he Luna's assistant, or slave? His entire life as he knew it blended in front of him.
Suddenly, the entire presence was gripped by something and ripped from his mind. He let out a cry of anguish as his mind shut down and darkness enveloped him.
"You there, Dragon Boy?"
Snap snap. Flare opened his eyes and looked around. Now he was sitting in the garden, back in Canterlot. But the garden was different. The grass was a strange shade of purple, and the clouds in the sky were pink, not white. The statues were decorated with an assortment of ridiculous attire. The entire world seemed to be twisted.
"Yes, the flowers are nice and pretty, but look at me." A voice Flare didn't recognize said behind him. He turned and looked to the source of the voice...and froze.
It was another new creature to Flare. It, or he, as he sounded, was a very tell creature, but the most interesting thing about him was his variety. His head was horse-like, but much different in shape than anypony else. He had a deer antler on the right of his head, and a goat horn on the left. He had one long fang, different-sized pupils, a snake tongue, and a beard. He had the right arm of a lion, the left claw of an eagle, the right leg of a lizard, and the left leg of a goat. In addition, he had a bat's right wing, a Pegasus' left wing, and a snake's tail.
Overall, he was very different. Then again, so was Flare.
"Yes yes, look at me like I'm a freak." The creature said absentmindedly. "Everypony does when they first meet me."
Flare simply shrugged. "Meh, I've had that happen to me, too."
"I'm sure you have, considering you're half dragon. My name is Discord, by the way."
The way he said that made Flare think he should have heard of him before, but he hadn't. "So what do you want with me?"
"My, that's no way to thank your savoir." He said, grinning.
What is he talking about? Flare thought. "Savoir? Savoir from what?"
Discord seemed genuinely surprised. "Of what? The crazy changeling that was ruining your mind! That's what!"
Flare simply stared at Discord. "What are you talking about? She was saving me, freeing me from the rule of that tyrant, Nightmare Moon."
Discord's arms dropped to his sides, a look of horror growing on his face. "I was too late. Buck, she really screwed your head up, didn't she?"
Flare was getting frustrated. "What are you talking about? Why am I here?"
"Sit down, kid, and let me explain." Discord said, and Flare suddenly was restrained by a brown liquid which one of the clouds rained down.
"You will let me go!" Flare said, struggling. Discord simply walked over to him and slapped him.
"Now shut up and listen to me." He said, sitting on a nearby bench. "I'm not usually this nice, so enjoy it while it lasts."
His tone became serious. "Everything I am about to tell you is the cold, hard truth, but probably not what you believe. From what I have observed-"
"From what you observed? What are you, a stalker or something?"
Slap. "Pay attention. From what I have observed, Luna brought you here a few days ago."
"You mean Nightmare Moon forced me to come here after she killed my parents."
"Wrong, you came voluntarily with Princess Luna, though I cannot say anything about your parents. Anyway, you were appointed her assistant/bodyguard by Celestia."
"Appointed her slave, if that's what you mean."
"No, her assistant, as in you still had your free will and could have left anytime you wanted."
Flare simply stared at him, and for a few moments, Discord thought he had gotten through to him.
"You," Flare finally said. "Are freaking nuts. Now let me out of here." He said as he ripped himself from his restraints and walked away, leaving Discord alone in the garden again.
"I'm so sorry, Little Lulu." Discord mumbled, watching Flare go. "He's too far gone."
Flare reached the edge of the city, where the gate was. Chrysalis said that there was an exit around here. As he opened the gate, he saw a reflective opening, like a rippling mirror.
"Found ya." He said, walking through the portal.
"Flare! Flare, wake up!" Luna said, shaking him.
He opened his eyes and looked up at Luna.
"Oh thank Celestia you are alright." She said, hugging Flare.
But he did not hug her back. His eyes were small slits, staring cold death at Luna.
"Get away from me, Nightmare Moon!" He cried, throwing Luna across the room. She screamed weakly as she tumbled across the room.
Luna hit the wall hard and slumped against the ground. She looked up to see the only other being she had loved, besides her sister, in a millennium open his mouth to shoot flames at her. A single tear rolled down the side of her face.
"No, Flare, don't do this....."
Celestia was walking down the hall to Luna's room when she heard the crash. She galloped as fast as she could to the room. Four guards walking down the hall also came with her.
She reached out to sense what was in the room. She could sense fear and pain from her sister, and hatred and anguish from a unique soul who could only be Flare. She blasted the door off of its hinges with a shot of magic. She gasped at the sight before her.
Her sister lay on one side of the room, slumped against the wall. Her head was raised, staring at Flare with a look of pure horror and despair in her eyes. Flare stood on the other side, but there was something very wrong about him. He stood in a tight position, like a coil about to release, and pupils were barely visible, black lines in his blue eyes. He had his mouth open like he was... about to shoot fire. The guards hit that conclusion an instant before Celestia.
Two of them leaped in front of Flare, putting themselves between him and Luna. The other two threw themselves directly at him. Flare turned his open mouth to the two guards coming at him, ready to scorch them in a single blast.
"Check!" Celestia yelled, and suddenly the two guards charging Flare froze. Flare was surrounded by a golden aura of her magic, paralyzed. The two guards who were nearest Luna moved over to her, checking for injuries.
"I'm ok." She said, tears running down her face. "But what is wrong with him?"
She turned to her older sister. "Celestia?"
"I don't know." She said, staring into the psychotic eyes of Flare with bitter curiosity. "But he is too dangerous at the moment to find out."
With that, she twitched slightly, and Flare collapsed with a loud thump. She then looked to the four guards. "Go get more help."
One of the guards, who was wearing a red pauldron, turned to the other three. "Vin, Jay, go get help. Dar, stay with me."
Celestia looked up at the guard as the two left. "You need to go too."
"Ma'am, we don't know what caused him to do this, meaning more danger may still be nearby. But I understand your request for privacy. We'll be outside."
And with that, the two guards left without a word. Celestia walked over and settled down by Luna. "What happened?"
Luna look was one of pure anguish. "It was that changeling! Chrysalis! She trapped Flare in his dreams. I tried to save him, but I...I..." She broke down sobbing. Celestia hugged her as she cried. "I wasn't strong enough! Oh, the torment he must have gone through!"
Hoof steps were heard echoing down the hall. One of the guards stuck his head through the door. Or rather, where the door had been.
"Ma'am, Vin and Jay are back with help. What are we to do?"
Celestia looked to Flare's unmoving form and sighed. "Take him to the dungeons. Inform me when he awakens."
"Understood." The guard deadpanned. Several unicorns entered the room and lifted Flare with magic, carefully moving him out and away.
Luna was staring at this with a look of horror. "The dungeons? What are we going to do to him, Tia?"
Tia? Luna hadn't used Celestia's pet name in ages. "I don't know. But he just tried to kill you, so I am taking no chances."
Flare snapped his eyes open, looking around. Where was Nightmare Moon? He had been so close, so close, to finishing the job.
But none of that mattered now. Those guards had broken in and stopped him, and that alicorn. He could have sworn it was Celestia, but his mind told him she was gone, banished when Nightmare Moon took power.
But now he was back in Dreamland again, from what he could tell. Back in that blasted garden with Discord. He looked down at Flare with mild amusement. "Not even five minutes back in reality. That has to be a record."
Flare was on his feet in an instant.
"Now we will have none of that." Discord said, snapping his fingers. Flare froze, halfway through a leap at Discord. "I have paralysis powers too, you know. Quite stunning, isn't it?"
Laughing at his own joke, he settled himself on the park bench again. "Now, I know that can't possibly be comfortable. I may release you. Maybe. But if you try to attack me again I won't be happy."
He snapped again, and Flare fell onto the purple grass. "So what do you want with me, another bogus history lesson?"
"That didn't work very well last time, now did it? No, today a biology lesson is in order. You know what a changeling is, don't you?"
"And you know Chrysalis is a queen changeling?"
"Where are you taking this?"
Discord looked unamused. "I'm the one asking questions here. She is a queen changeling, meaning that she gains all of the power of her hive. It also means she has a great deal of knowledge on how the mind works, specifically memories and emotions."
"And what does this have to do with me?"
"My, you are quite the block head." Discord deadpanned. "She screwed with your mind! You gave into her will, and she warped your entire soul. Well, most of it, that is. I saved you from complete desolation."
"And why would I do something like that?" Flare asked.
"Because she used your parents as a rouse. She threatened to kill your mother, which was a load of crap, but you didn't know that, so you gave in to save her. Very entertaining to watch, to be honest."
"And you just sat there and watched all this happen, but didn't bother to do anything about it?" Flare was getting irritated, this barely made sense.
"Oh, my dear boy, you must think I am a being of good nature." Discord said, laughing. "Quite the contrary. You see, I am Discord, Lord of Chaos, and I'm about as evil as that Chrysalis creature. Why do you think I am here? Because I was imprisoned in here."
"So then why did you save me, if you are so evil?"
"Several reasons. First off, I am as old as the princesses are, so I've seen quite a lot happen. I would have gladly let her rip your little mind to shreds, but the last time that happened and they were released into the world. Well, they just about leveled an entire city. So I didn't want to see that happen again. Second, I get lonely in here, all by myself. It's been nice to have some company. And third," He said, his tone and expression softening. He began to pace, his back turned to Flare.
"Little Luna doesn't deserve to lose another one of her lovers. You are what, her second? Third? Yes, there was that colt. Nice lad, but dumped her when he learned she was immortal. Then there was that other alicorn. He got killed just before the rise of Nightmare Moon, nasty business, that. But I digress. The point is, she's been through a lot. And she doesn't deserve to see you get screwed in the head as well, so I'm trying to save what is left."
Flare didn't look convinced. "If you are so powerful and care so much, then why don't you just twist my mind back to the way it was before?"
Discord snapped back around to Flare, radiating frustration. "Because a mind is not a toy! You can't just 'twist it back', you need to know what it was like before so you know how it should look after! If not, you can cause more damage than before! And only one being knows what your mind looks like, and that's that rat Chrysalis!"
"Now now, my love. Are you really going to let him talk about me like that?" Chrysalis said, emerging from between two bushes, smiling.
Luna stood in the dungeon, looking at the shackled form before her. Unconscious, Flare still looked peaceful, as he had been before. Where did it all go so wrong? She thought. Why couldn't I save him?
"Don't blame yourself for this Luna, it isn't your fault." Celestia said, appearing beside of her sister.
"And how is it not my fault? I could have foreseen this, prevented it."
"There was nothing you could have done. You need to stop beating your self up over this."
"But its just like with Majestic all over again!" Luna said, looking to her sister with tears forming in her eyes.
So she still remembers him. Celestia thought. They both did. Majestic had been a stallion, a fine one at that. He was one of the few to ever try to court Luna. A very charming individual, and Luna soon began to like him as well. They had dated fro several years, and actually were engaged to be married. But of course, nothing is perfect. A plague struck the land, infecting ponies minds and turning them against one another.
It ripped through most of the land, reaching Canterlot just as a cure was being developed. Luna had been diagnosed with it, and it devastated all of them. Celestia's mind flashed back to those horrifying days.
"How is she, doctor?" Celestia asked, standing above the bed where her sister lay.
His face was sad. "She...she is infected. She probably has two or three hours before it reaches full control."
Celestia hung her head, a tear rolling down her cheek. Mother and Father had already been killed by this, and now her baby sister too?
Majestic, sitting beside Luna, looked up, a grim look of determination on his face. He looked to the guards at the door. "Do you have restraints?"
The guards exchanged glances, nodding, and holding up a set of shackles.
"Put them on me." He said, and everypony in the room looked at him like he was crazy. "Come on, do it."
The guards reluctantly complied, applying the restraints to Majestic.
"What are you doing?" Celestia asked.
"If my hunch is right, then I might be able to clear her of the disease. By..." He looked to the floor. "By absorbing it myself."
Luna looked to him, her eyes beginning to dilate. It was taking effect. "Don't do this, Majestic."
"I'm sorry my love." He said, looking into Luna's eyes. "It must be done."
And with that, he lowered his horn to Luna's, and suddenly his eye's snapped open, his pupils becoming as small as peas. He stood frozen for a few moments, then fell over onto the floor, unconscious.
He was never sane again, always looking at them like they were monsters. But there were times, when he would snap back to sanity, but then he would simply beg for an end to it all, saying he couldn't fight it, and it had consumed him. After many months of this, and many arguments between the sisters, they put him out of his misery. Luna was never the same again, this sparked her spiral into becoming Nightmare Moon.
Celestia flashed back to the present. Luna had her eyes closed, obviously she was seeing the same thing. She hugged her sister. "That will never happen again, I promise. We will get him back."
Chrysalis walked up to Flare, nuzzling his neck and kissing him on the cheek. "I'm sorry it took me so long, your friend here is very good at hiding things."
Discord just stared at this, one eye twitching slightly. Then he slowly raised one hand and snapped his fingers. Chrysalis was teleported from Flare to the other side of Discord, so that he was between her and Flare.
"Now this was quite an unexpected interruption." Discord said, turning to the changeling queen. "I would ask you how the buck you got here, but I don't think I want to hear the answer to that."
Chrysalis looked at Discord with an innocent look. "Now, my dear Discord, whats the matter? I simply came to make sure you weren't doing anything to my Flare."
"He's not yours." He growled, jabbing Chrysalis with his lion paw of a hand. "You might have screwed with his mind, but there is still a sain thought in there somewhere, and I will find it."
"My, this is quite out of character for you. It seems the Lord of Chaos has a soft side." She said, giggling.
Discord glared ice at her. "Just because I want to salvage part of my soul from my demons before I go nuts means nothing here." His voice dropped to a deadly whisper. "Luna shouldn't have to watch another one of her lovers fall to another mind trick."
Chrysalis met his ice cold gaze with a lighthearted one, her voice also a whisper. "Oh, so the little dark princess gets to have a lover, yet I can't? Is that the way you are putting this, my dear Discord?"
"You're a monster, Chrysalis. You can't find love, so you force it. It disgusts me."
"And what are you going to do about it, hmm? Only someone with knowledge of his mind can fix him, and so far, I'm the only one." She said, grinning triumphantly. She walked around Discord and back towards where Flare was sitting patiently. "Now that I am done talking with my old friend, are you ready to go, dear?"
Flare's eyes flashed green as he nodded. He began to rise to leave with her. Discord spun around and raised his hand to stop them.
"I don't think you're going anywhere." A voice said, and Discord thought for a few moments it was his own, but it was coming from behind them. The voice seemed strangely familiar to Flare, he looked to see who it was, curious to how they found their way in. He gasped at what he saw.
A pony came out of the garden. He was a unicorn, with a jet black coat. His cutie mark was a curved image of a dragon, and his mane flowed like fire. His looked at Flare with deep blue snake slit eyes and gave him a fanged smile.
"Hello Dragon Boy, surprised to see me?" The pony Flare said, grinning. Chrysalis and dragon Flare simply gaped at him.
"Ok what the buck?" Discord said, looking between the two versions of the same being.
Discord's eyes darted back and forth between the two Flares. Even for the Lord of Chaos, this was impossible. The dragon Flare and Chrysalis seemed to support that opinion as well, looking at the pony with disdain.
He opened his mouth to speak, but the dragon Flare beat him to it.
"What are you?" He asked, staring in disbelief.
The pony laughed. "Really? Are you so messed up in your part of the head you don't recognize me?" But there was no scorn or anger in his voice, his voice was peaceful and happy.
"'Your part of the head'?" Discord echoed, watching the pony Flare with curiosity. He didn't act like his dragon counterpart, he stood tall and proud, and seemed very benevolent. "You mean there are multiple parts of your mind?"
The pony looked at Discord. "Yes. Most beings have two minds, the conscious and subconscious mind. It is simply more so with our situation. Since we are a mixture of two physical bodies, our minds are a bit more... special. Usually the conscious is in charge of voluntary actions and the subconscious just does mundane involuntary actions. But in our case, its like being bipolar, except its not a sickness. For the most part, I just sat back in my corner and let the conscious mind do what it wanted." He said, indicating the dragon. "And look where it got him."
"So you are the subconscious mind." Chrysalis said, more of a thought said aloud than an actual statement. The pony appeared not to notice that.
"Very good. Before I simply observed the world from the nether reaches of the mind, and to be quite honest, reality sucks."
The dragon Flare finally seemed to be coming to grips with the situation. "So why are you now suddenly taking so much control?"
"Isn't it obvious? Because you, the conscious mind, just went through enough trauma to kill both of us. When your side of the mind went into lockdown, I took over to keep us alive."
The dragon furrowed his brow, opening his mouth to try to protest, but the pony raised a hoof and stopped him.
"Don't even try to use one of your little stories on me that she gave you." He said, pointing to Chrysalis, but still without menace. "Her version of your life probably contradicted everything I just said."
The dragon still seemed to be struggling. "What do you mean?"
The pony sighed. "As Discord told you," He said, indicating the draconequus who had remained silent through most of the conversation. "Your mind has been altered quite a bit. You don't see the world the same way we do, because she forced those changes upon you to try to hurt you. You're lucky Discord saved you, or we both would be dead now.
The dragon suddenly snarled at the pony, moving in front of Chrysalis. "Don't talk about her like that." He growled.
The pony brought a hoof to his forehead slowly. "Ugh, that was always your big problem, wasn't it? You're stubborn as a mule, and you can't see reality when it's sitting right in front of your black scaled face." A hint of anger slipped into his tone.
"You're going to regret this if you keep talking." The dragon said, his eyes burning with anger.
The pony simply smiled and laughed. "Come at me bro."
The dragon did.
The noise woke Luna, who had decided to sleep in a room adjacent from the dungeon where Flare was kept. She looked around. What was that noise? Then another thought hit her.
She quickly rose from where she was sleeping and briskly walked across the hall to the dungeon chamber where Flare was. She peered through the window in the door... and froze.
The shackles that had held Flare were shattered, snapped like rubber bands. She immediatly backed away from the door, turning to see the guard on duty come marching down the hall.
"Guard! Get my sister immediatly! Flare has broken from his restraints."
The guards eyes went wide as he spun on his hooves and darted back down the corridor. A psychotic dragon on the loose had to be one of his worst nightmares.
Luna waited for what seemed like an eternity before Celestia came down the hall, followed by several guards.
These guards were not the usual white or grey guards. They black, with matte black armor and spears that had sparks emitting from the tops. One was carrying a square object.
"Luna, step away from the door." Celestia said in a stern, serious voice, pulling her sister from the door.
"But Tia! What if they hurt him?" Luna said, as the guards took up positions around the door. The guard placed the square device firmly on the door, clenching a wire in his mouth and stepping back.
"They have been ordered to only if he attacks them." Celestia said, watching the guards.
"Three, two, one, go!" The guard snapped, yanking the wire back. The device exploded, demolishing the door. The guards poured through into the room.
"Clear!" They finally cried, and Celestia entered, Luna hot on her heels. They both gasped at what the saw.
Flare lay on the floor, convulsing. Both eyes were open, but one looked normal, while the other was still dilated. His mouth was drawn back in a vicious snarl, and his limbs were quivering.
"What did you do to him?!" Luna exclaimed, pushing her way through the wall of black armor.
"We did nothing to him, ma'am. This was as we found him." One of the guards said, cold and emotionless.
"Tia? Whats wrong with him?" She said, looking into Flare's eyes. He did not look back, it was as if he was in some kind of trance.
Celestia's horn glowed slightly as she did some sort of evaluation on him, her eyes shut in concentration. "He seems to be having some sort of internal struggle. His mind is fighting with itself. We can do nothing to help him, only hope he recovers from it."
Luna looked down into his eyes again, full of concern. She was hoping, praying that he would come back to her.
The dragon charged at the pony, shooting flames at it. The pony simply sidestepped this attack. Discord and Chrysalis moved farther away from the two fighting creatures. As the dragon charge past, the pony raised a hoof and expertly jabbed the dragon on the back of his head. He snapped around, trying to bite the pony, but he rolled under the dragons head and hit him in the eye.
"You can't win this, dragon." The pony said, dodging another attack. "I know everything about you." He ducked under a clawed hand. "The way you think and the way you fight. I know what you'll do before y-"
He was stopped as the dragon lashed his tail around and smacked him with it, hard. The pony flew across the garden and crashed into a flower bed. He rose, spitting out a chunk of dirt. "I stand corrected."
The dragon simply opened its mouth and breathed another torrent of flame. The flower bed where the pony stood was enveloped in flames. Discord watched in horror, the pony was nowhere to be seen. Chrysalis simply smiled.
"Stop now, we don't want to destroy the garden."
The dragon ceased without a word. The flames slowly dissipated, revealing a ball of ice within the cloud of smoke. An opening appeared in it, and the pony walked casually out of it. He stopped and applauded. "Very good, very good indeed. I didn't see the tail coming, but the fire was a bit predictable."
The dragon looked ready to rip him apart, he opened his mouth again, flames stirring in his maw.
"Enough." The pony said, then suddenly, with a flash of light, the pony was face to face with the dragon, his horn digging into his scalp.
In an instant, Flare sorted through memories that belonged to him but were not his, filtering what was true and what was a lie. The corrupt mind began to retaliate, pushing against the sane part of his mind. Almost there. He thought, setting the lies aside and putting the truth back where it belonged. Suddenly, he felt himself being pulled back from the corrupt mind by another force.
In a dazing flash, he was back in the pony body, lying in a patch of purple grass. The dragon lay before him, his eyes wide, confused and shocked. Discord lay crumpled where he had been standing. Chrysalis stood over them, looking at Flare with wicked eyes.
"What do you have against what I am trying to do, hmm?" She said, lifting the pony with magic. There were no riddles or games now. She was furious.
"You tried to kill me, corrupt my mind. I think I have the right to protect it." Flare said, ignoring the fact that Chyrsalis was the one in control of the situation.
"No, I haven't tried to kill you at all, I want you, that's why I have come after you so much."
Flare was genuinely caught off guard by this. "What?"
Chrysalis touched her horn to his, and Flare's mind was filled with visions, memories of hers. Recent memories. Horrifying memories. Changelings returning to the hive after the attack, wounded, dying. The feeling of thousands of different beings starve and wilt was overpowering.
"This is what has become of my people. After we were defeated, we did not have enough food to support us. The wounded died first, then the weak, then the old, then the young. The hive is doomed, I am doomed." Sadness flowed into her voice like a tsunami, and Flare felt it was all genuine. "We have no hope left, no love to sustain us. All I wanted before I died, was to feel true happiness and affection. For myself, not for whomever I was impersonating. Can't you understand that?"
Suddenly, they were pulled apart. Discord threw Chrysalis to the ground, pulling one hand back and clenching it into a fist, ready to smash it into Chrysalis's face.
"Discord, stop!" The pony cried. Discord froze, stunned to hear that come from him, of all things.
"Don't tell me she screwed you up, too."
"She didn't. But I...I..." Flare said, looking down at the broken form of Chrysalis, she looked up at him, begging him without words. Only then did Flare see her for what she truly was, a sad broken mare, deprived of the will to live yet desperate for comfort in death. "I understand, finally, I understand what she wants. Let her go."
Discord looked at him like he was crazy, he probably sounded like it. But he could tell he was serious, and he reluctantly released her. She rose to her feet slowly, tears flowing freely down her face. She embraced the pony tightly.
"Thank you." She said, her voice barely a whisper.
"I only have one request." He said. "Turn him back to the way he was, then I will swap our minds. He is the Flare that has already lived and loved, I am the blank canvas. Keep me, not him."
"Of course." Chrysalis said. She seemed purged now, almost happy. "Give me a few minutes, and it will be done."
She walked over to the dragon, lowering her horn to his forehead. It glowed slightly as she did her work on him.
Discord watched this all with a look of pure confusion, which Flare suspected was the first time it had happened to him.
"Care to tell me what the buck is happening here?"
"First off, she's not as evil as you think, Discord. She is merely desperate."
"Desperate for what? Revenge?"
"No, she's deprate for love. She is dying, Discord, so is her hive. She simply wants to have some genuine comfort in her dying days, and I am willing to give her some. Its an opportunity most beings will not have."
Discord's mismatched eyes flashed with revelation, and his tone became somber. "Well, I would have never of guess she of all creatures would make such a request. But why didn't you just take your other mind back and leave."
"Because I am not a monster who would leave a lonely being to die like that. And besides, I hvae experienced too much of this body, this feeling of living, I could never back down and go back to being the backseat driver of the mind."
Chrysalis opened her eyes and rose, the dragon following suit. "It is done. He is ready."
"Good." The pony said, turning to Discord. "Whenever you're ready, we'll be on our way."
"Aren't you going to swap minds?" Chrysalis asked.
"I will back when we are back in reality. I suspect I will need to do some explaining before I do anything."
Discord clapped his hands together, regaining his chaotically lighthearted appearance. "Well perfect, now I can send you all on your way and clean this place up again."
"See you soon." Chrysalis said, kissing the pony Flare on the cheek. Discord snapped his fingers and she vanished.
"So now what?" The dragon said. He sounded different. His voice seemed deeper, and more controlled. Discord turned to the two Flares.
"Now." He said, raising his hand to snap again. "You get the buck out of here." He snapped twice, and they were gone.
Flare's form had stopped moving and become relaxed for over an hour, and Luna was getting worried. She feared his mind had been ruined, and he would never wake again. She lay beside him, his head resting on her lap. Celestia and the guards stood around, attentive but trying not to look too awkward.
Finally he began to stir. Slowly he opened his eyes, and Luna was initially filled with relief that they weren't the hostile slits they were before. But it soon faded as she realized his eyes were filled with fear and confusion. He scrambled to his feet and against the wall, his eyes glued to the guards. The movement was so sudden that the guards readied their spears, pointing the electrified tips at Flare. His eyes darted around the room, looking for a way to escape.
Hoovesteps were heard coming down the hall.
"Stop! Wait!" A voice called. Luna recognized it instantly, but even so, she froze. When the pony entered the room, everyone was confused, looking back and forth between the two Flares.
"Now I know you are all confused by this, but lets calm down here." Flare said, indicating the guards.
"Stand down." Celestia said, and the guards reluctantly raised there spears. She then turned to Flare, her eyes all ice. "You have some serious explaining to do."
"I'll explain everything later, but for right now I just need to get him out of here." He said, indicating the dragon. He waved for him to follow. "Come on, lets get you where you need to be."
Before he could turn to exit the room, Luna was upon him, embracing him with fierce compassion. Flare quickly broke off. "I missed you too, but we have a more pressing matter at hand."
"Of course." Luna said, stepping back and blushing profusely. Flare waved again to the dragon and they moved to leave the room, the others following close behind.
"Nice move, Romeo." The dragon whispered as he passed through the door. Flare smirked and led them down the hall.
Celestia soon caught up with Flare. "Care to explain what the buck is happening here?" She hissed. "You have done a lot of things over the past few days I should imprison you for."
"And I have also done several that you should praise me for." Flare said back, matching her tone. "Including this, so could you please just shut up and let me do what I need to do."
Celestia's face turned purple with fury. The dragon was obviously trying to stop himself from laughing but failed to restrain a smile. Flare simply kept walking as if nothing was happening.
"And what exactly do you need to do?"
Flare stopped and turned to face Celestia. "I need to get outside so I can leave this city and go where I need to be."
"Where you need to be? Not the dragon?"
"Yes. When we get outside, I am going to swap our minds, since mine is the one that needs to leave and his is the one that needs to stay."
"And where exactly are you going to go?"
"The changeling hive." Everypony gasped at that, and Celestia's eyes went wide.
"The changelings are dying, Celestia, the entire hive should be gone in about two weeks. During my little mind trip, my soul was split in half, and since it would never peacefully be whole again, I am giving half of it to Chrysalis so that when she dies, she can at least have some genuine company."
"But she is a monster, she tried to imprison my citizens and-"
It was the dragon's turn to be angry. He turned to face Celestia, his smile gone. "And what did you do to her in return? You murdered an entire species." His voice was cold and full of intellect. "All she wanted was food and survival for her hive, and what did she get? Destruction, death. An entire species will be wiped off of this world because of your actions. Who is really the monster here? Think that over before you spit on them like that."
And with that the dragon stormed off down the hall, the pony following close behind. Celestia did not pursue them, but watched them go. Luna and the guards stood still, stunned by the brashness of their words.
Many ponies stopped and stared at the two Flares as they walked down the halls. Finally they exited the castle and stood alone in the garden. The pony looked up at his dragon counterpart.
"All right, come here." The pony said as the dragon lowered his head. He touched his horn to the dragons forehead, and suddenly they were together again, one form, separated only by their own thoughts in a fluid motion, their essences flowed from one body to the other. Finally, they had completely switched bodies, and Flare broke his connection with his other self for the last time. The pony looked up at him.
"So where do you go now?" He asked.
The dragon hesitated, tilting his head as if listening for something. "West. The hive is to the west. And they are waiting for me."
"Well I guess this is the end of the line for us."
"I guess it is." The dragon paused. "I'll be sure to come find you again before your time ends, brother."
Yes, they were brothers, in every sense of the word. But his words also raised another problem that Flare never realized. I'm no longer immortal.
"I'll be waiting, brother." The pony said as the dragon turned and leaped into the sky and flying westward into the setting sun. Flare watched until his brother was gone, then watched as the sun set and the moon rose. Another quick goodbye, just like with our parents. He thought, a tear rolling down his face.
He became aware of a rustling sound behind him.
"I'm sorry for what I said to Celestia earlier." He said as Luna glided up behind him and rested a wing over him.
"It's ok. Your other side was...close to them, wasn't he?"
"Yeah, every bit of me that liked the changelings is in his conscious. I can't blame him for being defensive."
"I'm glad to have you back." She said, resting her head on his shoulder.
"I'm glad to be back." Flare said, turning his head and kissing Luna on the forehead. They sat together, watching the night and the stars. Flare could wait to tell Luna about his aging problem. For right now, it wasn't that important.
Flare slowly opened his eyes and looked around. It was day again, and he was alone. Luna must have left him alone to do her duties. He was fine with that. That wasn’t what was bothering him.
He felt alone in another kind of way. He felt like he was missing part of himself. Which he was. This was the first time that his mind was not in one body together. Also he no longer could turn into his dragon form, or at least he hadn't tried to yet, but that was a minor obstacle.
“Took you long enough to wake up.” A voice said behind him. He spun around to see Celestia sitting on a bench behind him.
“Yeah, it’s been a long few days.” He said, standing and shaking some dirt from his coat.
“Yes it has, and I would like to discuss them with you.” She said, her tone becoming icy and serious.
Flare sighed. “Of course, what do you want to know?”
“First and foremost.” She said, rising to her hooves and moving so that her face was only inches away from his. “Why the buck did you almost kill my sister?”
“I was not myself then. Chrysalis had infected my mind, warping it to her liking. I had been scared and confused when I awoke, which is why I did what I did.”
“If Chrysalis did all of this to your mind, then why are you normal now, and why did your dragon side go to her?” Celestia seemed skeptical.
“My dragon side left because Chrysalis is not the monster you think she is. She is simply sad and lonely. She tried to influence me so I would go to her.”
“And how did you break free of that?”
“Well your friend Discord here,” He pointed to the statue. ”tried to convince me of what was right and what was wrong, but I didn’t believe him. Then Chrysalis and my other mind showed up, and after a bit of fighting, my mind was set right again and we figured everything out.”
Celestia seemed surprised. “Discord actually helped?”
“Yes. He said that he was trying to salvage some of his conscience. He also said Luna didn’t deserve to lose another lover.”
“Well, that’s quite unexpected. Discord has never really cared about what happened to anything before, only how much chaos he could cause from it.”
Flare smiled, happy to have derailed Celestia’s interrogation. "Yes, he seems more aware of the world now. But I think he should still spend a bit more time in that little prison of his before you even think about letting him out."
"Oh trust me, after all he's done, he won't be free for many more years."
“I know you are wondering if I am a threat or not now, and you’re probably a bit flustered about the events of yesterday." He said, taking control of the situation. "I am myself again now, and pose no more threat than I did originally. As for my comments yesterday, I was simply in a rush and did not have time to discuss every detail of the situation. I hope this apology is enough to quell your suspicions.”
Celestia pondered what he had said and finally smiled. “Yes, I think it is quite enough. Well I must be getting myself to the second wedding for Shining Armor and Princess Cadence. Luna decided she still did not want to attend, and she is in the library, if you wish to join her.”
“Thank you.” Flare said. “I think I will. Oh, and Celestia?” He asked as she turned to leave.
"Yes?" She said, turning back to him.
"This will be a bit of a weird question, but is there any know way so far to make a pony immortal?"
Celestia hesitated, thinking. "Immortality has been attempted by many great magicians. Few have been successful. So far the only way to become immortal is to leave your mortal body and take up the form of an object. And even then, if the object is broken the soul is lost. Very risky business, not one I would suggest. Why do you ask?"
Flare said nothing, and soon the revelation hit Celestia. "Oh." She said, more of a thought then a statement. "You may not live forever Flare, but nothing does. Eventually death will hit all of us, so you must take advantage of the time you have left. Now go to Luna, she's waiting for you."
And with that she left Flare in the garden. He looked up at Discord's statue. Maybe he'd know how to do it. He then discarded the thought, remembering why Discord was locked away in the first place. "Later, Discord." He said, walking back to the castle.
His mother had told him once that the journey was always better than the destination, but Flare had ignored the green fields and majestic mountains as he passed them. All he cared about was getting where he needed to be.
He must have flown for several days by now, but he wasn’t keeping track. The voice of the hive called to him, beckoning him closer. It was much weaker than it had been before, its words unintelligible, but Flare could still tell what they meant nonetheless.
It used what energy it did have left to change some of Flare’s mind. Still wary of what Chrysalis had done to his other mind before, Flare was cautious, constantly observing it, making sure it stayed in line.
Which it did. And over time Flare started to feel affection for the dying changelings, and understanding of what they were. She was not altering his mind much, just giving him specific memories and feelings.
Finally, after an eternity of flying, Flare rounded the top of a mountain and saw what he had traveled all the way for: the changeling hive. It was a black cave opening amongst the mountains. It looked almost sculpted into the mountain.
It looked deserted. Posts where soldiers should have been guarding were empty, abandoned. When Flare approached them he realized they were not abandoned, but the guards were simply dead. They lay at their posts, still clutching their spears, loyal to the end. Flare looked into the hive. A faint glow lit the caverns, reflecting off of the glossy black walls. The voice called out to Flare from the end of the cavern.
”Come,” it called. ”Come to me at last.”
Flare began to walk into the cave, glancing around, taking it all in. And he was horrified at what he saw.
Changelings lay on the ground, dead. They were thin, their ribs visible through their chintinous abdomens. Some were still alive, and several recognized Flare. They stared at him in terror, wondering if he was here to finish them off. Most simply curled up against the walls, crying and moaning. It was all saddening and heart wrenching.
But one sight stopped Flare in his tracks. A changeling sat against the wall, holding a small limp bundle in its holed hands. Tears flowed from its blue eyes as it sobbed, a sick, twisted wailing noise. Looking closer at the bundle in its arms, Flare realized it was a young changeling, a child. Flare was transfixed on this, watching the grieving changeling and its child.
”Yes, it is sad, isn’t it?” Chrysalis’s voice said. ”This is how the hive has wilted. We are fading away, all of us. That is why you are here. To see what needs to be seen, to remember these horrors, and ensure that the ponies know what they have done to us.”
Flare broke his trance, turning and continuing towards the opening at the end where her voice was coming from. He ducked under the entrance and gasped at what he saw.
Chrysalis lay in the middle of the room. She smiled at Flare as he entered. She had cuts all over her body, stretching from her jaw all the way to her flanks. One of her legs appeared to be broken, it was wrapped in a green bandage that seemed to ooze a green goo. She only had one wing, the other was missing, a stump remained where it was supposed to be. Her chintin was cracked, split down the side. But she still smiled at him, and he smiled back.
”Welcome home.” She said to him. ”I have missed you. Now don’t stand there all day, come here.”
She beckoned him over, and he complied. He walked to her, laying down and coiling his body around her. She leaned against his side and sighed, seeming to be genuinely happy for once.
”Thank you for doing this.” She said into his ear. ”I have been so lonely, it feels good finally having someone to be with. Even if I am about to die.”
“All things die eventually.” Flare said, quoting his father. “There is always a beginning and an end to everything. Learning to except this and enjoy the time you have left is what truly matters.”
”I know” She said. ”I wasn’t always like this, you know. I wasn’t always a changeling.”
Flare was shocked. “If you weren’t always a changeling, then what were you?”
She sighed leaning farther into his side, savoring his warmth. ”Changelings are parasites, as you know. We feed off of the emotions of other creatures, eating it like honey. But they don’t actually have feelings themselves, they need a creature capable of feeling emotions to channel it all into, to lead them, whether it be a king or queen, it does not matter. Before I was this, I was a pony, an alicorn, but of no relation to the princesses.”
“So how did you become this?” Flare asked.
”When I was young, I was foolish and stupid. I went where I wasn’t supposed to be, and I got lost. I had been living off of nothing for a month, and was dying of starvation when they found me. I was forced into this role, and at first I resented it all, but slowly it began to grow on me, and I began to love the hive. I never had a family, and they comforted me and protected me. They had saved me when I was in my hour of need. So I stayed with them. Before when I thought of losing the hive, I had hoped that I would return to my old form and be a pony once more. But I have lost hope of that ever happening.”
She brought her horn to his forehead. ”Let me show you what I once was and what I have now become.” She filled his head with images of her as a pony. She was beautiful. She was snow white, almost as pure as Celestia. Her eyes were a deep blue, a little lighter then Flare’s. her mane was the color of the sea, an amazing blue color. Her cheeks had a light blue hue. Her cutie mark was of several long, elegant blue butterflies. Then the memories flashed to when she was in a forest, starving and lost. She was brought to the hive and was there changed into her current self. During her transformation a single sentence was said in a cold voice. “You are…becoming.”
“Who’s voice is that?” Flare asked.
”The previous queen’s. She gave me her role then perished herself, leaving me to raise the changelings.”
She continued to show him things, filling his mind with her memories. Raising the hive, leading it to prosper and thrive. And all the while, she still missed her pony self, turning into it when she could. But that would just make her sadder, and eventually she simply stopped thinking about it. Flare looked down at her. He could still see the pony in her.
A crackling gasp was heard outside of the room. Chrysalis flinched and a tear rolled down her cheek.
”There goes the last one. They’re all gone now, every single one of them. It was sad feeling them go. But they didn’t mind, I didn’t mind. Changelings have always been rejected and hated by the world…” She coughed, shaking. Flare realized she did not have much time left. He rested a wing over her.
”Flare, promise me, please, promise me. The world always despised us, but please make sure they do not forget us. Make sure all my effort throughout my years will not be for nothing.”
“I promise. The world will never forget what you’ve done and who you were.”
She smiled, a lone tear on her cheek. She raised a hoof to his cheek. His raised a scaled hand and gently gripped it. ”Thank you.” She said, no more than a whisper. Then she slumped back, her eyes looking straight ahead at nothing, a smile still on her face. She was gone. Flare held the limp form of Chrysalis in his arms. In death, he finally saw her for what she truly was, a confused mare who just wanted what was best for the beings that saved her. Tears flowed down his face.
Finally an idea entered his mind. He slowly stood, careful not to disturb her form. He then turned and exited the cavern, returning with a pile of sand in his hands. He gently positioned Chrysalis in a comfortable stance, then covered her with the sand.
He took a step back, then turned and blasted the mound with fire. He circled the pile, making sure every side got the same amount of fire. His flames were no longer the red and orange fire he had before, but these were white, along with the spikes on his back. His fire was much hotter, and the process did not take long. The light of his flames reflected off of the glossy walls and the cavern was enveloped in white light.
As the flames died down, Flare inspected his work. Chrysalis lay in the center of the glass dome, curled up. She looked so peaceful, just like his father when he had done it for him. He dropped down and carved into the cooling glass.
Here lies Chrysalis, Queen of the changelings and a mare who did not feel true love until her final moments. May she always be loved and never be forgotten.
It was all Flare needed to say about her. He was sure there would be entire books about her. Of course there would be, he would write them. He would ensure that she was immortalized in writing just as other famous beings had. He had made her a promise, and he intended to keep it.
Click. The noise echoed down the vast caverns of the former changeling hive.
Flare opened his eyes, looking around for it's source. At first he thought it might have been a changeling that had survived. That would have been useful, because even after several weeks of observing what he could from the hive, he hadn't learned much. But he quickly discarded this idea, because one of the things he did know, was that changelings did not click.
Click. There it was again. Flare uncoiled himself from where he lay to go investigate the noise.
Click. The noise echoed again as Flare exited the room he was in into the main corridor. He glanced around briefly before he found the source of the noise. But it still perplexed him when he saw it.
It was a tall, thin thing. It stood by one of the dead changelings, watching it. It looked almost like a pony, if it had been starved and stripped down to its skeleton. Even its head was flat, with two bulbous pieces which must have been its eyes. It looked too thin to be any sort of living being. The way the light shined off of its skin was different from how changelings shined. It looked almost to be metal.
Flare rose back up on his hind legs, trying to make himself as imposing as possible. "Hey! You!" He boomed down the cavern.
The thing snapped around to look at Flare with two glowing eyes. It tilted it's head slightly, watching him. They locked stares for about a minute, then Flare took a step towards the creature. It quickly retreated, stepping backwards, each hoof clicking as it hit the ground.
As it came closer to the cavern entrance, Flare noticed several other creatures outside. They moved into the cavern and stood beside of the first thing, forming a straight line in front of Flare. They all stared at him, emotionless.
He lowered himself to the ground. If they wanted to fight him, standing was not a good choice of position. But they did nothing. They simple stood there, staring at him.
Finally, Flare heard something else approaching the cavern.
Another new creature entered the cave. It was tall, with the front half of an eagle and the rear half of a lion. His parents had told him about these things once. Griffons.
"Well, well, well, what do we have here?" He said in a gruff, deep voice. "A dragon. Now that's a rare find. But what are you doing out here, so far away from your homeland?"
"I am studying here." Flare said, for lack of better words. "What are you doing here?"
The griffon laughed. "Me? This is my land, so I have a right to be here. I also have the right to evict you from this little cave of yours and your little studies."
"Oh yeah? You and what army?" Flare said, immediatly regretting his words.
The griffon smiled darkly. "This army." He pulled out a small device from a bag he had and pushed a button on it. The strange things snapped upright. Small openings appeared in their sides, and strange tubed devices emerged from them.
"Now. I'll ask you nicely one last time. Leave." The griffon said. Flare responded by snarling at him.
"Very well." He said calmly as he pushed another button. Flare raised a leg in front of his face as a shield.
Bang. The noise came from the tubed things, smoke billowing from their tips. Flare felt a sudden stinging in his leg, like he had been stabbed. His body immediatly flowed with adrenalin, ebbing any pain he felt.
All diplomacy was gone now. The griffon looked puzzled, like Flare shouldn't have still been a problem. He reached to push the button on the device again. Flare opened up with torrents of flame, engulfing all of them in it. He held his flames for a full minute, and when they died there was nothing left, just a pile of ashes and four puddles of melted metal.
So that's what they were made of. Flare thought, but he had more important matters at hand. Flare knelt down looking at his leg. There were four holes in his leg, all of which were leaking blood. Now that his adrenalin was ebbing he could feel his leg hurting more and more. This isn't good.
He needed to get somewhere where he could get help. He needed to go back to Canterlot.
But can I get back before this kills me? He thought, hobbling on three legs to the cavern entrance. Only one way to find out.
He leaped into the air and began the long journey back to Canterlot.
It had been several weeks since the changelings had attacked Canterlot, and life had generally returned to normal. Ponies went about their daily activities again, with a generally happy outlook. The city had been repaired relatively quickly and was now thriving again. Autumn had settled in and the leaves were falling from the trees.
Flare finally began to do what he had been originally assigned to do, assisting Luna. He spent most of his days in the library with her, working on government procedures, protocols, and other confusing and complicated subjects.
In his free time, he also obsessed about immortality. He knew he was letting it get to his head too much, but at least it gave him something to occupy his time. He would look through old historical books about previous attempts at immortality, but there was not much to work with. Several ponies tried to put their souls into objects. A stone, a tree, a door(now what the buck was he thinking).
But there was one that caught his attention. In a book he found an old newspaper article. "Stallion attempts to make wooden body for himself." The title said. He skimmed through the article. "Drillbit, a stallion from Phillydelphia unveiled his newest creation today, a pony made entirely of wood....He claims that he has figured out how to transplant his soul into this body and use it to live forever...Will attempt the move later this week..."
He moved on to the next article, but stopped at the title. "Tragedy strikes during soul transplant." Reluctantly, he looked down at the rest. "Drillbit's experiment went completely aria today as he tried to move his soul into his new wooden body...Lost control of his being...Body was unresponsive...Deemed a complete failure..."
He put the articles back where he found then, disappointed. At least it's a place to start from. He thought as he sat back down at his desk, pulling over another book. It stopped halfway to him, gripped by another force.
"You've been working too hard on this little project, Flare." Luna said, coming up behind him and resting her head on his shoulder. "You need to relax."
"Yeah, like you're one to be talking about relaxing." He said, turning his head and nuzzling Luna. She giggled, drawing some stray glances from around the library.
"Yes I am. But seriously, you needn't worry about this. You're wasting time you could be spending on other things, more important things."
"I know." He said, releasing the book and letting Luna levitate it back to its shelf. "Come on then, lets spend some time on 'more important things'." He said, imitating Luna's voice.
She laughed lightly, pushing Flare along. "Yes, but we have festivities to attend tonight."
"Festivities? You never attend parties." Flare said.
"Yes I know, but this party is for me, so I want to attend it."
"Yes, really. I am the Princess of the Night, after all." She said, mock scorn entering her voice.
"Well what is the event called?"
"Nightmare Night. It's a very entertaining holiday centered around dressing up and scaring other ponies."
"So we're gonna go scare some ponies?"
"Yes." She said, a mischievous smile spreading across her face. "Yes we are."
She led him up to the landing area for the chariots. Waiting for them there was a dark blue chariot. It looked like a thinner, more twisted version of the usual chariots. And the two pegasi waiting with it were equally as strange. They were grey, with gold snake eyes, and bat wings. Their armor was a dark blue color.
But Flare recognized them by the way they stood. "Dawn, Thorn? Nice makeover."
Dawn smiled at Flare. "Yep, Roarad always likes doing the spells for the Nightmare Guards."
Flare looked at Luna, but she had also changed. She was now a taller, jet black mare with fangs and blue snake eyes. She was clad in blue armor, and her cutie mark had turned a blue color.
"Boo." She said in a deeper voice than usually. Flare simply laughed.
"Now I feel left out since I don't have a scary getup."
"Hold still and you will." She said.
Flare felt his body tingle and suddenly he was blinded by a bright light. He felt himself get taller and larger. He felt wings spring out from his back.
"Whoa." Dawn and Thorn both said as the light faded. Flare was now at eye level again with Luna. She was smiling.
"Perfect." She said, creating a mirror with magic. Flare smiled as he looked at himself. He was an alicorn now. Sinister with dark grey plates. A single glowing blue stone was in the center of his chest piece. The dragon mark on his flank now flowed and coiled around itself. His mane flowed with blue and white flames.
"I like it." He said in a much deeper voice.
"Good." The mirror disappeared. "Let's get going then, we have a lot of ground to cover."
"Where are we heading, anyway?" Flare asked as he climbed in the chariot after Luna, or Nightmare Moon.
"Ponyville." She said, nodding to the guards. "Don't wait for a tip." They smiled and looked at each other, then straight ahead.
Flare suddenly found himself looking from the horizon to straight up at the moon. Oh buck. He thought as the chariot climbed like a rocket.
Flare had been flying for what seemed like ages, and he could tell he was slowly growing weaker.
He could tell his wounds had become infected, but with what he was unsure. The infects were different from others, the scales around the infected area had turned a pale color, and the wounds themselves were a silvery color.
He had an awful headache, and his stomach was cramping. whatever had hurt him wasn't done yet. He was unsure how much longer he could last.
He finally rounded a large mountain that had blocked his way for quite a while, and sighed as he saw a town he recognized.
It was Ponyville, the town he had watched while he grew up. Certainly they would know how to help him.
He was so focused on the town he didn't notice the chariot flying through the clouds in front of him until it was too late.
"Do you hear something?"
All four of them paused, listening. All they could hear was the sound of the wind. But wait, there was another noise, Flare could hear it. It sounded like wings flapping and something panting, something close.
"Luna, down!" He said, pushing Luna down flat on the bottom of the chariot right as a giant black form flew overhead, clipping part of the chariot.
The chariot twisted and bucked, but by some raw display of strength, Thorn and Dawn kept control of it. Whatever hit them, however, was not so lucky. It spiraled down through the clouds.
"What the buck was that thing?" Thorn snapped, looking around.
"It was me." Flare said, spotting the crashing dragon. "Follow him!"
"No parties for us then." Dawn said as they brought the chariot down after the dragon.
He hit the ground hard, tearing through a field and disappearing into an apple orchard, knocking over several trees.
The chariot arrived at the scene a few moments later, and Flare hopped out before it had even stopped, sprinting to his brothers side. Luna and the others were close behind. The dragon was lying on his back, limp.
"Flare! Come on buddy, wake up."
The dragon opened his eyes slowly, looking them over. "Whoa." He said weakly, his eyes resting on the other Flare. "Who are you?" He asked.
Flare was terrified for a second. Did he really forget who we are? Then he realized that they were all still in their Nightmare Night disguises.
"Luna, change us all back." He said. She complied and the dragons face softened visibly.
"Are you hurt?" Luna asked. Flare reluctantly raised his foreleg, showing her the four holes in it. "Oh no..." She whispered, looking the wounds over.
"What kind of creature causes these wounds?" Flare asked.
"Not a creature. A machine. Projectile weaponry." Thorn said, looking at the wounds. "Lead rounds, by the looks of the infection. If you get the slugs out now and wash the wounds the infection can still be reversed. If not, well, you'll be a three legged dragon."
"How do you know that?" Flare asked, looking down at his bleeding leg. Thorn raised one of his in response, where there was a large white scar above his ankle.
"I've been you before." He said. "These came from a drone. Nasty little things. Griffons make 'em. If you took on four and lived, you are pretty lucky."
Luna had closed her eyes and her horn was now glowing. Flare gasped and his black scaled turned white as the four slugs emerged from the wounds. Luna discarded them, tossing them to the side.
Voices could be heard approaching. "Aw, that's eight good apple trees gone." the orange mare said as she rounded the corner. She was dressed as a serial killer, complete with a hockey mask. Flare almost found it funny, if his brother wasn't lying beside him bleeding. She saw the chariot and the operation in progress. "Oh buck."
"What is it, Applejack?" a small, timid voice said behind her. The yellow pegasus was close behind Applejack, dressed as a butterfly. She gasped when she saw Flare lying on the ground.
She rushed forward, gently pushing her way to him. "Excuse me, pardon me."
"What are you doing, Fluttershy?" Luna said as Fluttershy looked at the wounds.
"Oh dear oh dear oh dear." She repeated, rotating the leg slightly. Flare grunted and she looked up at him.
"Now you shush. You'll be all right." She looked back at Applejack. "Get me a bucket of water and some cloth, Applejack."
Luna and Flare were shocked. Fluttershy was notorious for being timid, especially with dragons. But she was also renown for taking care of hurt animals. So here she was, standing beside of a colossal dragon, treating it's injuries.
Applejack quickly returned with the requested items, and Fluttershy gently rubbed the damp cloth against the wounds, but the cloth came back grey with lead. She used fresh rags each time, and slowly the grey color was less and less. Finally she wrapped the leg in cloth, tying it tight.
"There, that should do for know, but he should really have that examined." She said, rising from his side. He, of course, was already fast asleep.
"I know, we just need to figure out how to get him out of here."
"He'll probably be able to fly himself in a day or so." Thorn said, turning to Applejack. "But of course, ma'am, until he is strong enough, he's going to be using your orchard as a bed."
She didn't seem to happy about that, but there was nothing she could do about it. "Well Ah hope he gets better, at least."
"So I guess this means the partying is over for the night." Dawn said, glum. Thorn slapped him on the back of his head.
"I'll buy you a beer when we get back if it means you'll shut up."
"Yeah, and it looks like Flare could use another Flaming Rainboom." Dawn said, slapping Flare on the back. But Flare wasn't paying attention to them, and they soon noticed why.
The dragons form had begun to ripple. Slowly, the dragon was becoming smaller.
"But I thought you two couldn't do that anymore." Luna said, watching as the dragon slowly became a pony again.
"I didn't think we could." Flare said.
The other Flare opened his eyes. "Well, have you ever tried?" He said, smiling weakly.
"No, but I assumed that-"
"You know what they say, 'when you assume you make an ass out of you and me'." He tried to rise, but quickly fell again. He looked at his foreleg. "Well that's interesting."
The four holes were still there, only smaller, to be of scale to the pony.
"Well this doesn't help our problem much. We still need to get you back to Canterlot." Luna said. "And we can only fit two of us in the chariot."
"Give me a minute." The unhurt Flare said, closing his eyes. He delved deep into his soul, looking.
He was shocked when he found the dragon. He realized that since there had been so soul in it, he hadn't been able to sense it, which was why he couldn't change before.
When he opened his eyes again, he was much larger than before.
"Problem solved." He said, clapping his hands together. "Wow, I grew a lot."
More and more ponies were appearing at the scene now.
"We should probably get moving again." Dawn said, eyeing the growing crowd.
Thorn was already strapping himself into the chariot. "Well we can't go anywhere until you get over here."
"I'm coming, I'm coming." He said, moving to his position as the wounded Flare clambered into the back. "Princess? Aren't you coming with us?"
"I am." She said, smiling. "But I can use some exercise. You go ahead, me and Flare will meet you back at the castle."
Thorn and Dawn both gave Flare a smirk then turned forward and took off, not quite as roughly as they had the first time, given the condition of their cargo.
"You do know Celestia's going to flip when she sees him in that condition, right?" Flare asked.
"Oh, I know." Luna said, snickering. "But it will be priceless."
Flare flinched. "Wow, that's mean."
"Oh come on." She said, punching him in the shoulder. "It's Nightmare Night. Everypony could use a good scare."
"Well, if you say so," Flare glanced at the crowd of ponies that had begun to dissipate, going back to the festivities. He grinned mischievously."I think we can give quite a few scares."
And so began their fun, terrifying every pony in Ponyville. Packs of spiders. Swarms of bats. Occasional appearances by Nightmare Moon herself. And they made a very nice trick of making Flare invisible, having him sneak into a crowd, then pop up. At first the ponies were a bit overwhelmed by all of it, but they got used to it fast.
Flare also took note of the pegasus flying around in a cloud, zapping ponies when they weren't looking.
"Now we can't let her have all the fun, can we?" He said, letting Luna turn him invisible. He, as quietly as possible, glided up behind the cloud. He put his head right beside of the pegasus, who was sneaking up on a group of fillies going down the road.
"Watcha doin'?" He asked, becoming visible again. The pegasus screamed and rolled off of the cloud, dissipating it. Flare chuckled as she flew back towards him, her face turning bright red.
"Not funny." She said, turning around and flying off again.
Flare, still chuckling, glided back over to where Luna was.
"Ah, this is fun." He said.
"Yes it is. But it looks like our fun is over." She said, indicating how much thinner the crowd was. Yes, it was late, so most ponies were turning in for the night.
"Aw. That stinks. We need to have holidays like this more often."
"Now that would take all the fun out of it." Luna said, beginning to walk towards the outskirts of the town. "Come on, we need to be getting back to Canterlot."
"Alright." He said, scooping up Luna and taking off.
"Flare, you don't need to carry me." She said, but she didn't try to free herself.
"I know, but I can make it back to Canterlot in less then three hours, can you?" Flare said, matter-of-factly.
"Point taken." Luna said, settling in for the trip.
Celestia watched from the balcony of her tower quarters as Flare and Luna crested over the mountain and entered the city. They were late, but she didn't mind. It was Nightmare Night, Luna's holiday, so she could spend a little extra time celebrating if she wanted.
What she did mind, however, was the other Flare showing up on Luna's chariot with four gunshots in his leg. She had almost scrambled the entire Royal Guard when they arrived. Lucky for them, though, Dawn was able to explain everything before she panicked too badly. That stallion sure could talk fast when he needed to.
But instead of landed on the recently rebuilt tower where their quarters, Flare and Luna landed in the garden. Celestia smiled lightly as she watched them. She was happy for her little sister. Luna had been distant ever since she came back from her exile. Celestia was happy that she had found someone special to her.
But she had to admit, deep down inside her, that she was jealous. Celestia had not loved in centuries, the pain of losing the one she loved had been too much for her last time. But the fact that Luna found someone immortal, who would never leave her, and that she would never have to feel that pain again, made Celestia jealous. She wanted that, someone who would love her for all of time.
"Good evening." A voice said, ripping her from these thoughts.
Celestia flinch, startled. She looked back into her room, but her door was closed.
"Who goes there?" She said cautiously. Her guards would have made sure that nothing harmful could get near her, but it never hurt to take precautions.
"Relax, its me." The black dragon said, extending his neck and raising his head up over the edge of the balcony.
My, they got big. Celestia thought, looking back down at the other Flare who was lying in the garden.
"You do realize what time it is, don't you?" She asked.
"Of course I do, but I figured you could use a scare to help celebrate the night." He said, grinning mischievously.
"Well you already scared me once already." Celestia said, giving him a scornful look.
"Ok, so I did." He shrugged, or at least his head bobbed like he did, she could not see his shoulders.
"How did you get up here, anyway?" Celestia asked. "I doubt the guards approve of large dragons climbing up the towers."
"Eh, the guards are used to me now." He said, still grinning. "These building are very easy to grip, even with a hurt hand."
"Speaking of which, how is it going? I've heard about the griffon's machines but not what they could do."
"It's doing fine, your healers are very good at their jobs." He said, climbing up a bit more to raise his clawed hand over the edge of the balcony. The four holes were gone, but pale marks were left in their place. "At least you can tell us apart now."
"I can tell you apart anyway."
"Oh really, and how do you do that?" Flare asked, cocking his head slightly.
"Your personalities are a little different. You speak intelligently and think more than your brother. And besides, you use greater amounts of emotion."
"Interesting." He said, noting the look in her eyes as she glanced back down at the other Flare. "You're jealous, aren't you?"
"What? Why do you think that? That's outrageous." She said, looking away to hide her blush.
"Is it really? Because I feel the same way." Flare said, looking at his brother. "Happy that he found someone he is happy with, yet sad and jealous that I haven't."
Celestia, her composure regained, looked back at Flare. "I'm sure you didn't climb all this way just to flirt with me."
"No," He sighed, still looking at his brother with a somber expression. Celestia suddenly felt a pang of guilt in her gut. "That would be too good, wouldn't it?"
"I didn't mean to offend you." She said quickly.
"No, you're right. I came here to ask for your help." Flare said, looking back to Celestia
"My help?" Celestia asked, surprised. "With what?"
"Well, in case you haven't noticed, me and my brother have gotten much larger recently. And since dragons are immortal, I figure I'll keep growing until I'm killed by unnatural causes or until there is not enough food in the world to sate my hunger."
"And you're hoping I can stop this growth." Celestia said, catching on.
"Yes, and if at all possible, reverse it slightly. We are already a bit too big to fit in some buildings." Flare smiled. "So can you do it?"
"Well, I guess it is possible, but it would require thorough knowledge of your structure." Celestia said, thinking. "It would also require time to get everything right. But its more possible than your brothers previous request to become immortal."
"Great." Flare said, overjoyed. Celestia heard his tail smack against the side of the tower. "Just tell me what you need and I'll get it for you."
Celestia smiled, pleased by his vigor. "Well I will need to learn about your specific body structure and how you work in order to change your growth, so stop by here daily at about, oh, noon, and we'll have the two of you fixed up in no time."
Then Flare did something she did not see coming, he hugged her. This was extremely awkward in multiple ways. First, he was much bigger than Celestia. Second, it was one handed, since he was still clinging to the building. And third, it surprised Celestia.
Thankfully, though, he quickly released her, blushing. "Sorry," He said, still grinning. "Seemed appropriate."
"If you say so." Celestia replied, recovering herself. "Now is that all you came to see me for?"
"Yes, it was." He said, flexing his wings. He glanced around for any obstacles in his immediate vicinity."I'll leave you now."
"Ok." She said. "Goodnight, Flare."
"Goodnight, Princess." He leaped from the building, extending his wings and gliding away.
She watched until he curved behind a building. Well that was interesting. She thought, walking back into her room and levitating a glass to her and pouring herself a glass of wine.
His words still lingered in her mind, though. "That would be too good, wouldn't it?"
"Yes, Flare, it would." She said, thinking aloud. She hoped that she hadn't hurt his feelings. She had a tendency of doing that, not noticing someone else's pain until it was too late.
But she knew she was letting this get to her head too much. He had very poor control over his emotions. That was another way she could tell the Flares apart. That explained the unexpected hug she got. Although as she thought more and more about it, she realized she actually didn't mind the hug, she was only surprised by it.
She sighed, refilling her now empty glass. "Why can life never be simple?"
Flare glided around the city, taking in everything. Apparently ponies had gotten used to the sight of him, so there was no panicking.
He looped back to the castle, gripping onto another tower, climbing to it's top and coiling himself around the bronze summit.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. He thought to himself, recounting what he had done.
He had hugged Celestia. What had come over him? Now what will she think of him?
At least she had approved of his request. He could apologize tomorrow. Hopefully she would except it.
The flapping of wings brought his attention away from these thoughts. He looked over to see his brother fly up to the tower and cling to it below him.
"Good to see you made it back." He said, grinning. "The healers fix you up?"
"Yeah." Flare raised his leg to show him. "They did a good job."
"Oh, good, now we both have interesting scars." He said, craning his head around and showing off the round scar at the base of his skull.
"Yeah. So why are you here instead of with Luna?"
"Eh, she fell asleep, and I saw you visiting Celestia, so I decided to see what was up."
"Not much, just asking something." Flare said, shrugging.
"Oh really?" His brother said, climbing farther up the tower. "And what might that have been?"
"Nothing like what you are thinking, I can assure you of that. I asked if she can stop our dragon's growth."
"And she said?"
"She agreed to it."
"And I assume this is the part where you hugged her?" He said, smiling.
Flare's heart skipped a beat. "Just how much did you see?"
"I saw enough." He said, winking. "So how'd she react to it?"
"Not good." Flare said, lowering his head. "She pulled away. I think I screwed the pooch bad on this one."
"Nah, bro. Although you probably did freak her out a bit, though. Just apologize for it tomorrow."
"Yeah I will."
"Good. Well we could probably both use some rest. You have somewhere to stay?" Flare asked his brother.
"I was just going to stay here for now. I'll ask for my own quarters later." Flare said, shrugging.
"If you say so." He said, releasing his grip on the building and flying away, over to his tower he shared with Luna. Flare watched him go, then closed his eyes and tried to let sleep take him. But as he would doze, he would slip slightly down the tower's side.
A mischievous idea slipped into his head and he laughed to himself as he glided down to the garden so he could sleep.
Flare soon realized that one off the down sides to sleeping outside is that you have to wake up as soon as the sun rose. So in total, Flare ended up getting only about 4 hours of sleep before the sun made it too bright to sleep. But it would have to do for now.
He didn't mind waking up so early, he had work to do anyway. He had promised Chrysalis that her kind would not forgotten. So he went to the library, changing into his pony form to fit comfortably inside. Glancing around, he spotted an empty desk and went it it, levitating a blank sheet of paper and a quill over to him.
He flashed back in his mind to what Chrysalis had shown him, the memories and legacies of the hive. The quill began to scribble across the paper without his conscious thought. He slipped away from the world, writing madly page after page. He stared down at the desk, his eyes in dis-focus, as he cycled through the pages.
He no longer had any grip on the time. Seconds, minutes, or even hours, could have been passing, but he was oblivious. He was writing down centuries of knowledge, the entire past of a civilization.
Only when something tapped him on the shoulder did he explode back into reality again. He glanced around to see what had stopped him.
"Whoa, take it easy bro." His brother said, looking over his work. "How long have you been working on this?"
"Depends. What time is it?" He said, looking to the clock hanging from a nearby wall. 11:45?! I've worked all morning!
As if on cue, his stomach growled. His brother simply laughed, floating over a tray of food.
"I knew you'd be hungry, since you missed breakfast and lunch."
"I thought you weren't supposed to bring food into the library?" He asked, feasting on he before him.
"I know. But first off, there's nopony here, they're all still at lunch. Second, they don't question the actions of a Princess's aid."
"Clever." He said between bites.
"So, ah, what are you going to do with all of these pages? You writing a book?" He asked, looking over what must have been sixty pages. He lifted the first one to him. "Chapter One: Origins... These are about changelings, aren't they?"
Flare simply nodded. "I promised Chrysalis that I would do this, so here I am, fulfilling my promise."
"Well, at the rate your going, you'll be done in a few days."
"Yeah. Can you do me a favor?" He asked.
"Sure. What'd you need?"
"I've got to go meet Celestia, can you put these pages somewhere where they won't be touched?"
"Sure. Have fun with Celestia." He said, smiling and winking.
"Shut up." He said, punching him in the shoulder and leaving the library.
He walked out into the garden and turned back into his dragon form. Only then did he notice a subtle change in him between himself and his brother. The spikes on his back were no longer red and orange, but glowed a harsh white.
Interesting. He thought. But he had little time to ponder on this. The clock tower rang with noon, so he quickly leaped in the air, and flew up to the balcony, clinging to the wall below it as he had the night before. As soon as his head crested the top of the balcony, he was greeted by the white alicorn.
"Good afternoon, Flare." She said, smiled warmly.
"Good afternoon, Princess." He replied in kind.
"How did your work in the library go this morning?" She asked.
"Oh, you saw that?" Flare asked, rotating his head slightly. "It was good, I got a lot done."
"Yes I noticed. You didn't respond to anything around you." She said, laughing. "I talked to you for about five minutes before I realized you couldn't hear any of it."
That surprised Flare. "Well what did you say? I'm listening now."
"Oh, it was nothing." She said quickly, changing the subject. "What were you working on in the library. anyway?"
"The history of the changelings." He deadpanned. "I promised I would do it, so I am."
"You were...close to them, weren't you?"
"Yes, I was. But now they are gone, so I will do my part to show the world what they really were."
"You don't feel even the smallest bit of anger towards them? After all they did to you?"
"No, Celestia, I don't." Flare said, venom creeping into his voice. "Maybe my brother, the one they actually attacked, loathes them deep within him. But I don't. I was there, Celestia, I held the last changeling as it died. I learned things, saw things. You knew nothing about them. And now they are gone forever."
A silence as thick as concrete descended upon them. Celestia simply stared at him, emotionless. Flare immediatly regretted the words he had said, wishing for nothing more than to take them back.
"I'm sorry." He said, breaking the silence. She looked away from him, down at the ground.
"You okay?" He asked, crawling farther onto the balcony.
"They're all dead?" She asked finally, in disbelief.
"Yes. The entire hive is gone."
Celestia was in shock. Flare coiled his neck around her. "Its okay, Celestia. They knew their time was near. They knew they were too big to survive in the world. That's why they chose me, to be the one who knew what they really were, so the world would understand them even after they were gone."
"I know. Just, an entire species, gone." She said.
"But not forgotten." He replied.
They sat together in silence for a few more moments. "We should get to work." Celestia finally said, composed again.
"If you say so. What do I need to do?" He asked.
"You just need to hold still, so make sure you are comfortable." She said, bringing over several sheets of paper and a quill. Flare shifted around slightly, repositioning himself in a more comfortable stance. He set his head down on the balcony.
"Alright, I'm ready." He said finally.
"Good." She said, her horn glowing gold. A tingling sensation flowed over Flare's body as her spell went to work. She sat with a concentrated frown on her face, scribbling notes and drawings down on the papers before her.
Flare lay on the balcony, his lower half still gripping the tower, in patient silence for what seemed like an eternity as Celestia worked. Soon his lack of sleep began to wear on him, and before he knew it he was asleep.
Celestia paused, sensing Flare's conscious change slightly. She looked up from her notes to him and smiled.
She stopped smiling, however, when she saw him sliding back across the balcony, dragging her with him.
"Flare!" She shouted.
His eyes snapped open as they slipped over the edge.
"Oh fu-" Was the last thing Celestia heard before they fell.
Flare quickly reoriented himself to the situation. He made a split second decision, rolling over onto his back and folding his wings over Celestia.
Thump. He hit the ground hard on his back, ruining the flower bed he landed on. Luckily, however, he missed the benches and sidewalks.
"Ow..." He grumbled, gingerly unfolding his wings. Celestia lay on his chest, her mane a mess, but otherwise alright. They both stared at each other, panting.
The notes Celestia had been taking slowly floated down to them. One landed on Flare's head, covering his eye. With an exaggerated manner, he blew it off. Celestia started giggling. Flare joined in and soon they were laughing hysterically.
But of course they weren't alone for long. Several guards soon appeared in response to the noise.
"Princess!" A guard Flare didn't recognize shouted as they approached. "Are you alright?"
"Yes, yes. I am fine." She said, climbing off of Flare. "Carry on. And send my apologies to the gardener for the damages."
The guards hesitated for a moment, glancing at Flare, before complying with the orders.
Flare rolled back over, groaning, and climbed to his feet.
"Are you okay?" Celestia asked, turning to the dragon.
"Yeah. A little sore." He said, cracking his neck and grinning sheepishly. "Sorry about that."
Celestia simply laughed. "Don't worry about it. Just try not to fall off next time."
"Aw, ok." He said, laughing. "Is that enough work for today?"
"Yes, I think it is." Celestia said, gathering all the papers that had been scattered around the garden. "And enough excitement for quite a while. You should probably take it easy, though, you'll be sore for quite a while after a fall like that."
"Yeah, I think I will." He said, turning and limping to a nearby tree, curling up in it's shadow. He watched as Celestia flew back up the tower to her quarters. He grinned and laughed quietly to himself.
Everything went just as he had planned it.
"Hey, bro, are you awake?" A voice pulled Flare out of his much needed sleep. He opened his eyes and stared grumply at his brother, who seemed excited about something.
"I am now, so what do you want?" He growled. His brother simply raised his hands in mock surrender.
"My, someone's grumpy today."
"Well, I just fell off of a building, so what do you think?" Flare said, lowering putting his head back down on the ground.
"You did what?" His brother asked, generally shocked.
"Well I, ah, fell asleep when I was with Celestia and I sort of, well, dragged us both off of the tower." Flare said. His brother simple broke out laughing hysterically. "You didn't know that?"
His brother stopped laughing long enough to speak. "No, I was asleep. Since I am the assistant to the Princess of the Night, I need to be awake at night. So we sleep throughout the day."
"Yeah. And that's quite the prank, I'll give you that."
"Prank? You think I did that on purpose?" Flare said, trying not to sound too guilty.
"Of course you did. I know you better than you think. Besides, it's what I would have done." He said, winking. "Although poor Luna's going to have a fit when she hears about this. She was already grumpy enough today..."
"She in a bad mood today?"
"Yeah, strangest thing. She's been in a frump since she woke up today."
"Maybe she fell off of a building, too." Flare said. "Now did you wake me up just to talk about my prank?"
"Ok, fine, I'll cut to the chase. We need to split our name." He deadpanned.
"What?" Flare asked, caught completely off guard by this.
"Everypony is confused now that there are two of us. I figure if we go by different names, than ponies can tell us apart easier."
"Well, have any idea's in mind?" Flare asked, resigned. It was true, ponies would have a hard time with two identical ponies with the same name.
"Well, considering our full name is 'Midnight Flare', why doesn't one of us become 'Midnight', and the other 'Flare'?"
"Fine, but I call dibs on 'Flare'." He said, closing his eyes and trying to sleep again.
"And why should that be? Why shouldn't I be 'Flare'? I'm the original one."
Flare opened one eye and looked at his brother. "Because you're with Luna. 'Midnight and Luna', its fitting."
"Fine, you have a point there." Midnight said, a smirk appearing as he turned to leave. "Flare and Celestia, its fitting." He said with a laugh as he left.
Flare gave him one last look of pure ice, than closed his eyes and slept again.
The gong of a bell brought Flare out of his sleep again. It was much later in the day than before. The sun had begun to set over the horizon, and the moon was just barely visible as it rose.
Since this bell meant dinner, however, he was more motivated to answer it. Slowly, he dragged himself to his feet, every joint popping.
Perhaps I should have thought a bit more about the fall prank. He thought, transforming into his pony form as he walked back to the castle.
As usual, the crowd of ponies flowed like a river into the dinning hall. Most of which were in groups, socializing and gossiping. Flare suddenly felt secluded and alone, since he recognized none of the ponies around him.
"Come on, don't tell me you're getting lost on the way to dinner." Midnight said, slapping Flare on the back.
"Nah, just waiting to see how long it took for you to catch up." He said, smiling. "Have you filled ponies in on our little agreement earlier?"
"Yeah, I have. Hopefully word will spread fast about it quickly so we don't have to explain it to everypony." Midnight said.
"Good. How did Luna react to the news about our incident?" Flare asked.
"Oh, the sort of reaction you'd expect. Panic and anger. It didn't seem to improve her mood much, if anything, she seems darker now." He said, lowering his voice. "Although I didn't tell her it was a prank, so Celestia won't find out."
"Good, thanks." Flare said as they walked into the dinning hall. Both of them stopped at the same time. "Oh great."
It was obvious Celestia and Luna had just finished a heated debate. They both had locked glances and set jaws, although Luna seemed unmoving while Celestia seemed almost sad. It was obvious who was winning the debate. Shining Armor and Cadence had moved farther down the table to give them space and privacy.
"You know, I'm not all that hungry." Midnight said.
"Yeah, neither am I." Flare agreed, both of them turning at the same time and making a speedy escape from the dinning hall.
"What do you think that was about?" Midnight asked as they began to walk aimlessly through the halls.
"I don't know, but we are going to need a damn good excuse when they find us." Flare said.
"Yes, you will." A voice, as cold as the night for which she controlled, said behind them. They both froze, their eyes going wide. They both turned slowly to face the two alicorns.
"Care to explain your sudden lose of appetite?" Celestia asked, though more sympathetic than demanding. But Luna had a glare of ice that said she thought otherwise.
"Well, you two looked like you needed some, ah," Flare said, searching for the right word. "privacy."
"Yes, well." Luna said, glancing up at her big sister. "Our bickering is done for now."
Flare looked at his brother. Midnight had a perplexed expression on his face. Luna was being a bit grumpy today.
"Are you feeling ok, Luna?" Midnight asked, concerned.
"Yes, I am fine." Luna said sharply. "I just...have a lot on my mind."
And with that, she trotted off down the hall. Midnight glanced worriedly at Flare and Celestia, then turned and followed her.
Flare simply looked at Celestia, completely confused. "Care to explain what is going on?"
Celestia watched her sister go with a sad expression. "No, I don't. It's too...complicated."
"If you say so." Flare said, but he did not leave. Celestia sighed.
"Do you need something, Flare?"
"This may not be an appropriate time to make this request, but is there any place where I can stay? We never eally made arrangements for me getting quarters when I arrived." He said, grinning sheepishly.
Celestia laughed. "Sure, I bet we can you something arranged." She seemed a little happier now, probably because she had a task to occupy her mind.
"As a matter of fact." She said, smiling. "How would you like a job around the castle? An assistant position for me, perhaps?"
Flare smiled back. "That sounds like a plan."
Midnight ran after Luna as she stormed away.
"Luna! Wait up!" He said, catching up to her as they reached the base of the tower. "Luna? What's wrong?"
She turned and glared at him. She seemed different, almost darker. He could tell something was wrong with her.
"Come on Luna, talk to me."
"I'm fine." She said coldly, starting up the stairs with Midnight close behind.
"I know you well enough to tell you are not 'fine'. Something is wrong here." He said, passing Luna and putting himself between her and her quarters. "And you are going to tell me what it is."
"I will do no such thing, and you will get out of my way." She said, pushing by him and into her quarters. Before Midnight could turn and follow her, the door was slammed in his face. He sighed, knocking politely.
"Go away!" She shouted through the door.
"I'm not going anywhere!" He shouted back. "Not until you tell me what's wrong!"
And with that, he lay down against the door, waiting.
Flare stood outside in his new quarters, looking it over. "Thank you, Princess, for this."
"No problem at all, Flare." She said happily. "And you know you don't have to call me 'Princess'?"
"I know." He said. "But it is appropriate."
Celestia laughed. "If you say so." She looked out the window and her smile slowly faded. The moon was clearly visible through the window. It was very bright tonight.
"Is that it?" Flare asked, catching on. "Is there something about tonight that is making Luna act up?"
Celestia nodded. "Luna has always been very proud of her night. She molded and shaped each star, comet, and the very moon itself. It is very easy to see where her jealousy and sadness comes from for few ponies appreciating it. That was where her animal side, the Nightmare, comes from."
Flare nodded. "Does that have something to do with her weird behavior?"
Celestia nodded, sadly. "Yes, it does. While Nightmare Moon was defeated, it still resides within her, while in a weakened state. Within every being, there is an animal. The most basic of instincts and desires. If not kept under control, it can take over you, devour you."
"And you think Nightmare Moon might be coming back?"
"Perhaps. Tonight is unique. Do you notice anything special about it?"
Flare glanced up at the stars and the moon. "It's a full moon tonight?"
"Yes, but not just any full moon, it is a blue moon. This is the second full moon this month. This occurrence is extremely rare, and it gives Luna certain strengths while it lasts. She has already been in an unusually foul mood today, and I fear what this extra power will cause from her."
"Than why aren't you with her?" Flare asked. "Why aren't you making sure she doesn't lose herself."
"Because she needs to fight this monster herself. She needs to know that if I am ever unavailable to help her, that she can save herself. Besides, your brother could do far more to help her than I ever could."
"And what will you do if she loses herself?" Flare asked.
Celestia paused. "I don't know. I'm not sure if I would have the ability to take the pain of sending her away again."
A profound silence fell over them as they waited for one of them to say something.
"I'm...sorry, for the inappropriate hug the other night." Flare finally said, breaking the silence and changing the subject. Celestia smiled.
"It's ok for friends to hug each other, Flare." She said, walking forward and giving him a hug, as if to prove the point. But Flare could tell she needed it. Not as much as Luna does. He thought. She finally released him.
"Well, I think we both need some rest." She said, turning to leave. "Goodnight Flare."
"Goodnight Princess." He replied.
"Oh, and Flare?"
A smirk blossomed on her face. "I hear more than you think. I'll get you back for that prank." And with that, she closed his door and was gone. Flare stared after her, realizing what she had just said.
Midnight had sat outside of Luna's door for what had seemed like an eternity. He had tried going around to her balcony, but she had locked that door as well.
What could possibly be doing this to her? He thought, but quickly discarded it at some of the possibilities. He set his head down and tried to sleep.
Thump. The noise ripped him from his dozing.
"Luna? Are you ok?" He called, but received no response.
He pressed an ear against the door, listening. He heard little, but what he could hear indicated movement, erratic, struggling movements.
"Luna?" He called again. "Answer me or I'll blow this door down."
Receiving no response, he stood and backed away from the door, his horn glowing. He closed his eyes and concentrated.
Boom. The door shattered as a bolt of lightning ripped through it, shortly followed by Midnight as he charged in.
Luna was sitting in a corner, half hidden in the shadows. She was crying, tears rolling down her face.
"Luna!" Midnight cried, rushing over to her and holding her. She opened an eye to look at him, but it glowed a bright white. He paused to look her over. Something was happening to her. Her limbs were a darker color, her hooves had turned completely black, as had her horn and her flank. Her cutie mark was now a purple color, with the moon a very light blue shade.
"She's coming back." She said, half sobbing, in a distorted voice. "The Nightmare is returning."
Midnight's eyes went wide. He glanced around the room, debating whether or not to leave and get help. Almost as if she could sense the though, Luna pressed a hoof down hard on his.
"No." Her voice was more controlled now, but still distorted. "They can't help. I have to face this-" He hunched over and coughed sharply. "-alone."
"No," Midnight said, holding her tighter. "Not alone."
And so they sat together, Midnight holding Luna as she fought and struggled with the monster within herself. There were she became almost completely black and Midnight thought she was lost. But she kept fighting as the night wore on. The black color on her coat would recede and return like the tide of a sea.
Finally, the moon crested the horizon and the sun tooks its place. Midnight watched for what seemed like an eternity as it slipped out of sight. The black parts of her coat receded out of sight and Luna once again looked normal. The glow in her eyes faded as she went limp, unconscious. He caught her and smiled. She had won, the Nightmare was gone for now.
Carefully, he lifted her and carried her to her bed, laying her down and pulling the covers over her. He gave her a quick kiss on the forehead, levitating a chair over and sitting at her side. Her battle was won, now it was time for him to protect her from the rest of the world.
Sorry everyone for how long this took me. Been busy visiting the family who live halfway across the country. Also, I've been helping friends move back into school for the year.