Chapter One - Onset
“Be careful what you wish for” – Parents
It was late July, along the banks of the Neuse River in North Carolina. The evening was warm and muggy; mosquitoes buzzed, seeking juicy targets in the twilight. Drake Rex sat on banks of the river, watching the stars come out. A twenty year old engineering major, Drake was spending his last several days camping with friends before returning to college. He had elected to stay and watch the campsite while his friends went on a quick food run into the nearby town.
Roughly six foot with a football lineman build, Drake had brown hair and blue eyes, but what’s on the outside really isn’t that important. On the inside, if his ego is to be believed, he was a genius demigod among men. Despite his ego, Drake was brilliant and creative, with a powerful sense of curiosity for all things from ancient history to science fiction, fantasy to politics. Coupled with an active imagination, this had allowed Drake to entertain himself for hours on end, but he had also become disgusted with the state of world, believing he could do it better. Combining these traits with a bit of madness and one can see how the events that followed transpired as they did.
Drake was relaxed for the first time in a long time; the start of the year had been busy with school, and the summer had been filled with work and toil in an exciting, but demanding internship which had ended not even a week ago. Now here he was, camping with friends before they all went back to start the cycle of lectures, labs and tests yet again.
“Ahh, this is nice, no work, no meeting, no teachers or bosses, and no deadlines of any kind. I could lay here watching the sunset and listening to nature for hours. It’s better than most music and more enjoyable than the news, that’s for sure.” Sitting on the ground with his legs extended and his back propped up against a tree, Drake let his thoughts wander. This dangerous act resulted in him considering ways he would change the world, which in turn lead to him thinking of ways to gain the means to enact said change.
As Drake sat against a tree, the sun finished its descent and the stars began to appear across the sky. On this night, shooting stars streaked across the sky. From where he sat, Drake muttered a wish that would change his life, “I wish for power and immortality that I may change the world.” He chuckled, expecting nothing to come of it.
Instead of continuing on its course, the star he had wished upon veered off course. It streaked through the atmosphere towards Drake, who seeing this started running, hoping to avoid becoming a part of the impact crater. As the star closed in, Drake tripped on a piece of driftwood and landed face first into the dirt. When he turned over, he saw that the shooting star had stopped, and was now hovering above him.
“What the…okay I am either crazy or dreaming,” Drake muttered.
“This is no dream,” spoke the star, its voice sounding distant and feminine.
“Yep, crazy, finally lost it. Any second now they will come to take me away.”
“What price would you pay?” It asked.
Drake, befuddled by this unexpected turn of events, replied “Huh, price for what?”
“For your wish, what price would you pay?”
“Well,” he began, standing up and dusting himself off, “since immortality costs one’s place in Heaven, comes complete with watching those around you age and die while you remain a constant, removes your ability to have love as the heart becomes hardened to loss, and power comes with responsibility, the risk of corruption and loss of ability to relax, I would ask: What more could it cost?”
“That was oddly well thought out,” the shooting star responded with surprise
“What can I say, I’m a strange one.”
“Given this cost, why do you desire power and immortality?”
“A wonderful question,” Drake began, excitement creeping into his voice. “I desire the power because I feel that the human race is marching towards its own doom. While there are many good people, even they contribute to this eventual destruction. So, I wish be a guiding hand, saving man from itself.”
“My, what a big ego you have,” cracked the shooting star, “are you even all here?”
“Yeah, yeah…in truth I just think I could do a better job than anyone else, but I also want to make sure that the ‘improvements’ I make aren’t undone in less than a generation or two.”
“Does mankind not have freewill to determine its own path?”
“Well if you don’t grant my wish then yes.”
“Fortunately for you I have to grant your wish since you are willing to pay a fair cost,” the shooting star explained, “But I can decide how it is granted.”
“This sounds like it is going to end badly,” Drake muttered under his breath
“Perhaps. Mankind deserves the right to self-determination--no power in the universe may interfere with this. Therefore I grant you your immortality, but not in this reality, and with power you must master on your own.” With that the shooting star began to pulse, blinding Drake.
Drake threw up an arm to guard against the light now coming off the star. “Always has to be a catch with wishes, doesn’t there?” he complained to himself. The shooting star started pulsing faster, the air becoming agitated while Drake felt himself being drawn towards it. “Hey can you at least tell me where I will end up?” he asked.
“In a world you know well enough.” After this reply the shooting star exploded, enveloping Drake, who now felt as if he was falling. The wind whipped past him, muting all other sounds. Pain began to overwhelm his senses. The last thing he heard before passing out was the shooting star gloating. “Enjoy your wish, and know that I will be watching you to see how this turns out.”
Chapter Two - Realization
“Destiny grants us our wishes, but in its own way, in order to give us something beyond our wishes.”-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
It was early morning, the sun just beginning to rise at the base of a volcano in the midst of otherwise verdant landscape when Drake rejoined the world of the living. Drake groaned as each movement sent pain screaming across his nervous system. He had just woken up from having his wish granted and wasn’t sure what to think.
‘Oh gawd, dafuq happened last night,’ Drake thought through the fog of pain. ‘Last I remember, I was on the beach relaxing, and then… I passed out and had that strange dream with the talking wish granting star that debated about immortality and price. That dream may be enough to qualify me as crazy, but right now I need to get up and walk this off.’
Drake’s attempt to stand was somewhat less than successful. When he was about halfway up he quickly returned to the ground when a wave of excruciating pain raced it way through his body. “SON OF A BISCUIT WHORE!” he yelled to provide a mild outlet for is frustration, but doing nothing to reduce the pain. ‘On second thought I think I will just lay here in agony until one of my friends comes along to help me. It’s a beautiful, bright morning and they will probably come around to laugh at me for passing out last night any minute now.’
An hour later…
‘Apparently my friends aren’t coming to get me. Guess I have to go and find them. In that case it’s time for take two on standing then.’
Slowly Drake stood up. While it still pained him to stand, it was a dull, constant throb more than an unrelenting assault on his nervous system. Once he was fully upright Drake yawned loudly and stretched. Arms up above the head, knees bending up and down, back arched, mouth open wide, tail flexed and wings splayed.
‘What the fuck, a tail and wings!’ This sudden realization was followed by an undignified return to the ground.
“Time for a full body checklist,” Drake said shakily as he sat up. He began by moving his arms, legs, hands, toes, and then flexing his other muscles to make sure everything worked, and to discover if he could control his new body parts. “Okay final observation: I now have midnight blue scales with lighter ones down my front, claws with four digits including a thumb, a tail, two large leathery wings, my face as I knew it is gone as my nose and mouth have turned into a snout lined with razor sharp fangs. Additionally I have black spines down my back and the tail ends in an arrow shape and seems to be edged with serrated razor-like bone.” Speaking all of this aloud helped Drake calm himself down and process the information.
After a moment’s thought and a recollection of what he believed to be a dream, understanding bit Drake right on the buttocks. “I think my wish got granted, because I do believe I am a dragon…holy shit, I am a dragon, and all that shooting star stuff was real! I wanted immortality and power; it said I would have to go to a different reality. Wham! I wake up a dragon.” At this point Drake broke down in laughter, not ‘funny haha’ laughter, more like ‘I have gone insane creepy’ laughter, which lasted for a good five minutes or more.
Recovering from his episode, Drake began to experiment with movement, testing what his body could and couldn’t do. By the afternoon he figured out how to walk upright and on all fours, how to work his tail, and even use his wings to a limited extent, which involved a few crash landings. He even tried breathing fire, but he proved impotent in this facet of dragonhood.
‘Well I can walk, glide, sorta fly, can’t breathe fire, which is a problem I need to solve ASAP.’ He pondered for a moment, tapping his thumb against the ground. ‘First things first, I need to figure out where that shooting star sent me. Best bet would be to climb this mountain and see if I can spot any other dragons, or perhaps some form of civilization.’ with that thought in mind Drake set off.
Drake figured the best place to search for others would be from atop the conveniently placed mountain next to him. So he began walking up the mountain. As he got higher he began to hear roars. Once he was about halfway up the birds he was seeing earlier that day proved to be dragons. As he reached the ‘peak’ Drake was greeted by an expansive, mostly dormant, volcano crater filled with dragons of all shapes and sizes.
‘Well damn,’ Drake thought as he scanned his surroundings, analyzing the other dragons. Drake stayed where he had arrived at the top, taking in the sights and trying to see if he could understand everything he could about the dragons such as how they interacted, what they ate, , how to breathe fire. One stunning realization that dawned upon him as he did this was how well he could see everything in the crater, and how the longer he surveyed the scene the degree to which details emerged, almost as if his eyesight was improving just in the short hour or two that he spent watching. During this time he could not shake the feeling that all these dragons looked familiar, like he had seen them before. By comparing his size to that of the other dragons and their surroundings, Drake came to the conclusion that he was perhaps fifteen feet from tip to tail, four feet tall from ground to shoulder while standing on all fours , and roughly twelve feet tall standing on his hind legs. ‘Let’s see, since it seems that I am comparatively small, I am forced to conclude that I possess the body of a juvenile by dragon standards.’
As the sun began to sink below the horizon, Drake’s stomach rumbled, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before. ‘Well there is a group of dragons around my size, if a bit smaller, by that stack of gems, so I guess I will see if they can assist me.’
‘Wait…’ he thought as a feeling of deva vu crept over Drake. ‘Juvenile dragons around a pile of gems… I could swear I have seen this before.’ As he was racking his brain trying to figure it out, his stomach let out another rumble, urging him to find food. Rather than waste more time overthinking on an empty stomach, Drake jumped off the edge and glided down into the crater. Unfortunately for him, however, a gust of air caused by the difference in temperate between the lava pools and the atmosphere sent Drake crashing down in an ungraceful flop, landing right in one of said pools.
‘Note to self: crashing hurts, avoid doing so in the future, but lava doesn’t kill dragons.’ Getting out of the pool, Drake continued towards the pile of gems on foot. When he arrived he was surrounded by the six dragons he had seen earlier: a fat brown one with blue horns (Blue), a purple one with yellow hair (Hairy), a white one (Albino), a skinny grey one (Skinny), a chubby lite purple one (Chubs), and then lastly a hefty red and orange one (Red) that seemed to be the leader.
“Hey guys check out the newcomer,” Albino said as he saw Drake leave the pool
“Looks a little shrimpy to me,” Hairy said to the group
“How come we ain’t never seen you before, huh?” Blue asked hostilely once Drake reached to group.
“What’s your name newbie?” Red interrogated, getting right up in his face for the question.
“Nice crash by the way, who taught you to fly, a chicken?” Chubs taunted while Skinny made chicken noises.
Drake took stock the dragons surrounding him: their attitude, apparent intelligence, possible strengths and weaknesses, before quickly realizing something about them. “Fudge nuggets, these are a bunch of punk tough guy wannabes that are either too stupid or assholic to answer any of my questions.”
“What did you just call us newbie?” Red asked as the rest fell silent and glared at Drake.
“I think he called us tough guy wannabes.”
“Stupid and Assholic, too. Hey whats asssholic mean anyway?”
“I said that aloud, didn’t I?”
“Yeah,” Red said, cracking his knuckles, “Any last words before we show you just how tough we are?”
Drake right then and there realized that these dragons were going to beat him to within an inch of his life. Never one to back down Drake he did the only thing he could, he taunted.
“Indeed,” Drake smiled, slipping into a crouch, tail flexed and wings just barely open for balance. “Have any regrets?” he asked, hoping that a display of confidence might prevent a fight, and if not that he could retaliate.
“Why are you asking?” Blue questioned as they closed in on Drake, claws bared and club like tails swinging in preparation.
Rather than respond, Drake did the only thing anyone can do when outnumbered against opponents that you think will show no mercy:. He attacked, showing none of his own.
He jumped at Skinny slashing his wings to shreds. Skinny cried out and retreated, blood pouring from his wings, quickly making him feel light headed as the pain continued to pulse through his wings. Drake then spun to Chubs, smacking him in the face with his tail knocking teeth out with as loud crack from Chubs’ jaw as he fell to the ground unmoving. “Two down four to go,’’ he whispered, surprised by the capabilities of his body, but lacking time to dwell on it at the moment.
“No one hurts our friend!,” Red shouted, enraged by what he had just seen., “rRip his scales out!” On this order Albino jumped, claws out towards Drake, who responded with an uppercut, knocking Albino back. Hairy and Blue rushed Drake from opposite sides. Drake, taking a gamble, jumped and flapped his wings just as they reached him. Instead of getting caught he hovered for a brief moment, causing Hairy and blue to collide, hard.
As they were getting up, Drake started approaching Red. “Cut off the head and the snake dies,” Drake spoke evenly.
“What the hell dude… how… why…” Red blubbered, losing confidence upon seeing this newcomer disable one friend, knock another unconscious and fend off three more, before suddenly slapping himself and dropping into a fighting stance. “If it’s a fight you want, it’s a fight you’ll get.”
The two dragons rushed each other, colliding in a frenzy of swinging blows and flashing claws, both of them punching, clawing, kicking, and raking one another, but neither able to gain the upper hand. Red, frustrated that he wasn’t gaining the upper hand, lunged forward with his neck to bite Drake. Drake dodged by dropping his shoulder and gloated, “Game Over,” before grabbing Red’s neck in his own jaws and biting down through scale, tissue, and bone, finally severing Red’s spinal cord. As Drake bit down Red’s spines cut into the roof of his snout causing Drake to wince and tear up. As Drake dropped the lifeless corpse he turned to the remaining conscious dragons ready to get some answers.
“Now, I need some information, and you are going to give it to me or you end up like him.”
The surviving dragon simply nodded their heads, stunned and scared.
“Good, now for my first question…”
Chapter 3 – Seized
“A little learning, indeed, may be a dangerous thing, but the want of learning is a calamity to any people.” - Frederick Douglass
“Drake stared off into the distance, his face scrunched up in concentration as his mind digested the information that the other dragons had just finished offering him. The adolescent dragons were cowering before him, their backs pressed up against the volcano’s inner lip. They looked ready to bolt, but they seemed paralyzed by fear. Their constant glances at Red’s crumpled corpse seemed to support this claim.”
“Okay, so let me get this straight,” Drake said, reviewing the answers he was given. “We are currently at Layover Crater in Equestria, which exists due to some Pony Princesses bribing dragons to use this place. The purpose being to keep dragons from attacking ponies during their migration” The teens nodded in affirmative. “And as a dragon I can eat anything, but only gem stones and meat provide the nutrients I need to survive.” The teens nod again. “My growth is fueled by my greed and needs.” More nods yes. “As I give into my greed I lose intelligence and self-control, but gain size and strength, while my needs grant me wings and improved senses.”
“Yes sir, Drake,” Hairy spoke up, his voice quivering. “Although you need a hoard to gain strength through greed--otherwise you have nothing to fuel it, limiting the amount of strength it gives you. If there are other dragons around, their presence can help keep you in check-- otherwise you become a raging brute your strength limited by your hoard. Greed also has a side effect of reducing your intelligence potentially robbing you of all rational thougt.
“Okay, now that we have reviewed basic survival stuff, time for politics. You said Equestria was a moderately sized nation. Ruled by ponies lead by goddesses, it is the only stable nation in the world and has strict laws that ensure ‘harmony’ is maintained. Meanwhile, the land outside Equestia tends to be wild and is inhabited by griffins, minotaurs, diamond dogs, dragons and a host of other creatures.”
“Ye… yes, sir,” Blue quivered.
“Okay then, you guys are free to go, good-bye.” With that Drake turned and started walking away. While on the outside he had remained harsh and cold in order to keep control over the young drakes, being a brony and learning he was in Equestria had caused him to smile inwardly. Learning about the rest of the world had piqued his curiosity.
‘What to do, what to do?’, he thought to himself. ‘It is the middle of the dragon migration and since I didn’t see Spike and his Crackle costumed stalkers, there is a chance that I could meet them anytime soon, but from what they were saying about the lands outside Equestria…hmm. The chance to see beyond what was shown, but the loss of meeting the Mane Six… Of course, since I am here with knowledge about things that haven’t happened yet, I could affect the course of events, but should I? When you add in the effects of greed and need, I wonder…’ As he walked towards the crater wall, Drake wondered if he could control greed, and if it would grant him the power he had wanted back on Earth. He decided that perhaps he could, but the risk of losing his mind to greed was too great to remain in Equestria. Chances were that any experiment could end in a rampage that would likely end in his death.
‘If I am going to get control of this greed stuff I need to one: get out of Equestria, and two: find someone to help me…but who?’ While pondering who might be able to help him, Drake reached the crater wall and discovered that it was too steep for him to climb.
“Looks like I am going to learn to fly sooner rather than later.” But the sun was finishing its decent and while full from the gems he had taken from the punks, he still had some injuries from the fight he needed to look over. Drake found an overhang along the crater wall that he could fit comfortable under before taking stock of his body once again and going to bed.
“Huzzah mother trucker, this is awesome!” Drake yelled as he finally took flight after several crashes, gaining a new collection of bruises and busted scales since he began trying to fly that morning. Drake winged his way out of the volcano and landed at the top of the crater’s lip, basking in the radiance of his first flight. When he opened his eyes he saw a small purple and green dragon with a checkered bindle stick running up the mountain, looking eager as can be.
‘And we find someone who was in the full grasp of greed with nothing to restrain him, and yet ultimately he reverted back and regained control of himself. Someone who wants to know what it is to be a dragon. Spike my friend I believe I can help you.’ Drake grinned as he put his newly formulated plan into action.
Drake lay out near the rim of the crater, pretending to be asleep, but all the while watching as Spike ran up the volcano. Once Spike stopped to take everything in Drake spoke up.
“Sup little dude?”
“Huh, oh hey,” Spike began, surprised by Drake’s question and his presence. “I am on a quest of discovery to learn my
heritage, learn what it means to be a real dragon.”
“Well don’t go down into the crater then,” Drake warned
“Why not? I see other dragons my age down there.”
“Where are you from?” asked Drake, knowing already, but planning to use it against Spike.
“I’m from Ponyville,” he replied proudly.
“Then there are several reasons why not to go down there. Firstly I’m guessing you are what seven or eight years old…”
“I’m sixteen,” Spike corrected angrily.
“Oh then reason one: your age group in there is obnoxious, unhelpful, twice your size, and busy nursing wounds to body and pride.”
“And reason two: for a sixteen year old dragon you are puny, weak, and unintimidating.”
“Hey!” Spike squawked angrily.
Drake ignored him and continued onward. “Three: you hail from Ponyville. Do you really think that these dragons are going to accept you, a shrimp raised by manbe-panbe ponies?”
“Don’t you dare insult my friends!” Spike barked, angry about what the first dragon he had every met was saying about him and where he came from.
“Lastly: I can teach you everything they know and things no other dragon does, without those prejudices.” Drake then rose and began walking away, hoping he had intrigued Spike enough that he would follow.
“Wait, where are you going?” Spike called out, confused and upset, but interested and curious about this strange dragon he had just met.
“Out of Equestria to learn to master my greed, gain strength and power, maybe start an empire. why, you want to help?”
“Ah, not really, I will need to head home if I can’t learn about my heritage here.”
“Like I said, I can teach you that, and imagine if you do learn to control your greed--be a 1000ft tall powerhouse one moment, and then a twelve foot tall embodiment of awesome the next,” Drake explained with a smile, excitement creeping into his voice, hoping it would be enough to get Spike hook line and sinker.
“You can control your greed…?” a stunned Spike asked, taking a moment to consider some of the implications
“Well you did for Rarity didn’t you?”
“How do you know about that?! Have you been spying on me?!” Spike accused
Drake smirked. “Come with me and find out or go home and wonder forever what could have been.”
After a few moments thought Spike had made his decision. “Okay, I will come with you. Give me a moment to take care of some business.”
“Sure, when you get done just hop on my back and we will set off.”
Spike, now confused, curious, scared and a bit excited, ran off to relieve himself. As Drake was waiting he saw an eight legged, bejeweled abomination of a dragon costume coming up the mountain. When the costumed Spike stalkers reached him, Drake couldn’t resist messing with them for coming after Spike when they promised to let him go on his own.
“Good afternoon ladies, that’s a wonderful dragon costume you have there. Why you look just like Crackle. I do hope you enjoy your stay here at Layover Crater, although in your case I suggest you stay out of the pool.” Drake looked Twilight in the eye and snapped his jaw shut just an inch from her face. Twilight wanted to scream, to run, the wet herself butdid none of these things. Rather she was petrified by her fear and couldn’t do anything. As he was starring them down, Spike returned and hopped onto his back.
“Okay I am ready to go. Oh hey, who you talking to?”
“No one important,” Drake replied as he began pumping his wings. “Hold on tight, this is only my second time flying.”
“What!? This is only your--” Spike screamed as Drake achieved liftoff and flew towards to north-west.
Meanwhile on the ground inside a dragon costume, three very scared mares were just recovering from what they believed to be a near death experience.
“Are you girls okay?” Twilight Sparkle asked once her life finished flashing before her eyes.
“Yeah I’m all good, although I told you this disguise wouldn’t fool anyone,” Rainbow Dash replied, her bravado quickly returning.
“I am fine Twilight, and Rainbow, he said that we look just like Crackle, so it can’t be that bad a costume” Rarity retorted.
“Yeah then how did he know who we were, little miss glitter pants?”
Before Rarity could retort Twilight had a stunning realization. “Did you girls see Spike on his back when he took off?”
“Now that you mention it…” Rainbow thought, realizing she had indeed heard Spike’s voice.
“Oh dear, Spikey-wikey is with the meany-weenie dragon,” Rarity said, her voice trembling as if she was about to go into hysterics.. She ripped the costume off the trio and said in a commanding voice, “Quickly Rainbow, after them!”
“Right,” Rainbow saluted before taking off…and crashing into a dragon flying overhead.
Upon seeing Rainbow’s collision and noticing a large number of dragons closing in on them, evidently drawn by the sounds of Rarity’s yelling and more than happy to partake of a pony buffet, Twilight screamed the only logical thing that came to mind, “Run!”
Chapter Four: Answers
“I do like to shock and surprise people. When it's all in good fun, of course.”
As Twilight, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity ran, flew, teleported, hid and otherwise attempted to flee from the dragons chasing them, Drake and Spike flew through the skies, gliding on thermals and otherwise enjoying the wind rushing through their scales.
“So Spike,” Drake called back to his passenger, “Tell me a bit about yourself.”
“Well what do you want to know about me? Seems to me like you already know more than you should,” Spike replied cautiously.
“Why don’t you begin with the beginning; that should be enough to keep us occupied until we land.”
“Do you really think so? I’m not really that interesting.”
“Ah but you know nothing about me, perhaps I shall be entertained and intrigued by the life of a dragon raised by ponies, just don’t be surprised if I ask questions for clarification.”
“Okay... ah… what did you say your name was?”
“I didn’t, but its Drake, Drake Rex.”
“That’s a little strange, isn’t drake the word for a male dragon? Aren’t I a drake?”
“Yes I suppose that is true, but we are discussing your life story, not mine,” Drake said while thinking, ‘That damn star sure has a sense of irony doesn’t it.’
“Well okay, I started as a cute little purple and green egg…” Spike quickly fell into the telling of his story and throughout the day the two dragons continued to wing their way west. Throughout Spike’s tale Drake laughed at the young dragon’s antics and asked questions about things he hadn’t seen when watching the show. The only interruption they suffered was when Spike burped up a letter which was lost in the winds and fell to the ground.
“And finally I met you outside the volcano,” Spike finished his story as the sun began to sink beyond the horizon.
“Well that is quiet the interesting story. I feel like I really got to know enough about you to be able to teach you what you need and put together a plan for controlling that greed problem. Now keep a sharp eye out on the ground, I could use help finding a place for us to spend the night.”
“Ok, anything in particular?”
“A five star hotel with all you can eat buffets and mints on the pillow would be nice, but failing that a cave or someplace with water.”
“Okay,” Spike replied, chuckling as he began scanning the ground. A short while later he spotted a lake to the south of their current course. “Hey I see a lake down there, off to the left, that what you are looking for?”
“Where?” Drake asked, trying to spot the lake Spike mentioned.
“Right over there, surrounded by those trees. See it Drake?”
Drake scanned where Spike was pointing, not seeing a thing until he noticed the setting sun glinting off something near the horizon. “Is that it, back there towards the horizon?”
“Yeah, see it now?”
“Yep, that looks perfect; hang on for a course change.” Drake banked left and within the hour was touching down on the banks of the lake. Spike jumped down and stumbled, his legs having fallen asleep from the long flight. “Go ahead, walk that off, I’m going to go cool off in the lake.” With that Drake jumped into the air, spun, and dived into the lake, only to hit his head on the bottom when he discovered it was much shallower there than he thought.
Spike watched Drake’s stunt with mild apathy, being used to seeing Rainbow Dash’s tricks, but grew concerned when he saw the crash, “You ok?” No answer. “Hey! Drake, are you ok?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Drake finally replied, hissing as he did so, rubbing his skull as he stood in the lake with the water reaching his chin. “I’ll be fine, go and gather some wood and rocks. Set the rocks in a circle and build a fire inside; while you do that I will get us come dinner.”
“Ok, that won’t be too hard.”
Both began going about their task. Drake swam through the lake attempting to catch fish at different spots, while Spike found enough rocks for the fire-ring then wandered the surrounding forest for wood. As the sun nearly below the horizon Drake climbed out of the lake, several fish in his claws and one stuck on a spine.
‘Finally caught the slippery bastards,’ he thought as he walked over to where Spike had piled the rocks and several trips worth of wood. ‘Hope he gets the fire started soon…where is he anyway?’
“Spike! Hey Spike! I got dinner, get the fire started so it will be ready by the time I am done prepping it.”
“I’m coming,” Drake heard come out of the forest, soon after Spike appeared from the shadows carrying a bundle of sticks in one hand and dragging log three times his size behind him.
“See I am not a puny weakling, I pulled that all the way here from where I…why are you holding fish, where are the gems?”
Drake looked at Spike for a moment, “You really have only ever eaten gems?”
“Well I have had other stuff like vegetables, sweets, and hay fries, but mostly gems. Do you mean that we are having those fish tonight?” Spike gulped, shocked at the thought of eating meat.
“Indeed we are little buddy, time for dragon biology lesson number one. Dragons can eat pretty much anything. Plant based food doesn't provide any nutrition, although they will fill you up. Gems and metals affect the growth of scales and inherent magical abilities, such as our flight and fire, while meat fuels our growth and strength. So from now on you are getting meat in your diet.” Drake finished his speech and looked to see Spike’s reaction.
Spike stood stunned, unsure and disbelieving--he couldn't imagine eating meat. “What do you mean eat meat? Why, I never ate meat before.”
“Exactly, and for a sixteen year old dragon you are small and weak. Even the growth and strength from your last birthday was purely the result of your greed fueled by magic.”
“I refuse to eat meat; I will not become a pony-eating MONSTER!”
“Calm down Spike,” Drake said while motioning downwards with his hand. “I have no intention of making you eat anything capable of doing math.”
“Huh?” Spike was quickly becoming confused by Drake demanding he eat meat then promising he wouldn't make him eat ponies. “But I thought dragons ate ponies and such.”
“Perhaps, but I am not a normal dragon.” Drake now smirked, watching the gears turn in Spike’s head.
“Then what kind of dragon are you?” Spike asked, now slightly scared as he started to question what he had gotten himself into.
“I will make you a deal Spike, but first get the fire started while I prep these fish.”
“Okay.” Spike moved into the campsite, building the fire like he had seen the buffalo build theirs. The whole time he kept his eyes of Drake.
A short distance away Drake used his claws to slit the fish open and clean the guts and other entrails out for them. Once he had all the entrails removed he set the fish on a large rock by the fire, and took the entrails and buried them like he remembered people doing in the novels he used to read.
Spike continued to add wood to the fire as he kept his eyes on Drake, and when Drake returned from burying the fish guts he said nothing, averting his eyes to focus on the fire. Spike didn’t turn them back to Drake until he heard him messing with the wood, and the next he knew Drake had impaled the fish mouth first upon sticks.
Too curious to keep quiet, Spike was the first to break the silence, “What are you doing with the fish, why are they on those sticks?”
“Simple, I like cooked meat, and this is the most effective way to do it, watch.” With that Drake began setting the sticks into the ground around the fire. “See, now the fish can cook without us having to hold it the whole time.”
“Ok, so what is this deal you mentioned?” Spike asked, getting antsy as it was now dark, and aside from the fire the only light outside was the stars and a crescent moon.
“We need a map, and some information about where we are heading. You happen to have the ability to send and receive mail, so you are going to send Twilight a letter; after all I am sure that she is worried about you. In the letter you can say most anything you want, but you will need to request at the very least a map, and information about the land outside of Equestria.”
“And in return?” Spike expected something big, something serious.
“In return I will tell my life story, during which you may ask as many questions as you desire.”
“Okay I accept.” Spike was more than willing to take that deal, writing a letter would be a piece of cake. “I should warn you, there isn’t much known about the world outside of Equestria,” Spike mentioned casually, remembering all the times he had sorted books in the library.
“Can’t be helped, now go and compose your letter--I will tend to the fish.”
Elsewhere as the sun was setting, three tired, scorched, ragged ponies approached the doors to the Ponyville library. Two walked along the ground: a lavender unicorn with a pink streak through her mane and tail with its head held low, and a white unicorn with a purple mane and tail, fussing over the scorch marks and soot. The third flew lazily alongside them, its wings missing a few feathers and its fur more scorched than the others. Once they reached the door, Twilight opened it with her telekinesis and the others followed her in.
“You can wait over there and I will get you girls something to drink,” Twilight said morosely while motioning for Rarity and Rainbow to sit down amongst the bean bag chairs set aside for reading guests. Before Twilight could continue on into the kitchen Rarity intercepted her.
“No way dearie, you saved us for those dragons, you can go and sit down while I get us all something to drink,” Rarity remarked, “And while I am doing that tell Rainbow Dash where the first aid kit is so we can take care of the burns and scrapes we got for that dreadful encounter.”
Twilight nodded meekly and sat in one of the beanbag chairs after telling Rainbow where to find the first-aid kit. A short time later Rainbow came down the stairs, first-aid kit between her teeth. As she was laying it down on the table Rarity returned from the kitchen, floating three glasses and a pitcher of water with her.
“Here you go dearie,” Rarity said as she gave Twilight a glass, “drink this; it will help you feel better.”
“Uh-huh,” Twilight replied, taking the glass into her telekinetic field without looking up.
“Please cheer up Twilight, you saved us today. Having me use my gem finder spell then teleporting the nearby gems into a pile to distract the dragons while we made our escape was marvelous,” Rarity said while lifting Twilight’s head up to look her in the eye.
“Hey don’t forget my part,” Rainbow interjected, “I had to spend a good ten to fifteen minutes flying around distracting those dragons while you two gathered those gems.” Rainbow flew around the room with some flips and stunts, right until she crashed into a bookshelf. But even as it fell over Twilight hardly stirred, rather she lifted to bookcase off Rainbow and set it right, leaving the books where they had fallen.
“Rainbow! Are you okay?” Rarity rushed over, helping Rainbow out of the books.
“Yeah, yeah I am fine,” Rainbow said standing up, shaking off the crash when suddenly Rarity brushed a burn from dragon’s fire. Despite her best effort to keep the pain under wraps Rarity still noticed Rainbow gasp and tense up.
“Dearie are you okay?” Rarity asked, afraid she had hurt Rainbow somehow. Looking at where she had been touching she saw the burn, and when Rarity looked over herself and Twilight she remembered the encounter had not left them entirely injury free. “It’s time we took care of these burns and scrapes.” Walking Rainbow over a beanbag near Twilight, Rarity simultaneously began pulling out burn ointments and bandages from the first-aid kit.
“Hey Twilight, how did you know that the dragons would go for the gems instead of continuing to chase us?” Rainbow asked as the bandages and ointment hovered around the trio in Rarity’s levitation field, applying themselves to the injuries.
“Well it was purely a guess,” Twilight began, finally looking up to reply to Rainbow, “Dragons like shiny, precious things, are highly competitive, and… and…” Twilight began to tear up, “And gems were Spiiiiike’s favorite foooood!” The flood gates opened and Twilight broke down, burying her head into her seat.
“Twilight, honey, dear don’t… don’t cry.”Rarity sniffled, trying to hold back what was coming. “I am sure that we will…get…get…get Spikey-Wikey baaaaaaaaaaack!” Rarity joined Twilight, tears pouring out of her eyes as she fell onto a fainting couch that appeared out of nowhere.
Rainbow began to tear up, but refusing to drop her tough mare act, opted for a different route. “I could have caught them if that stupid costume hadn’t slowed me down,” she complained, tears beginning to leak down her face.
“It is not the costume’s fault Rainbow,” Rarity countered, her tears beginning to dry. “None of us could have done anything. Without that costume we would have been dead before we reached the volcano.”
“Yeah, the costume worked wonders; it really fooled the dragon that took Spike away.”
“Well I… You see…”
“Stop it girls, fighting won’t bring him back.” Rarity and Rainbow Dash turned to see Twilight had stopped crying, although her body language told them she was still depressed. “In fact nothing will.”
“Twilight darling you don’t mean to say you are giving up do you?”
“Yeah Twilight, quitting is for losers and you are NOT a loser.”
“Maybe I am,” she replied sullenly, “I lost Spike after all.” As the tears began to well up once again Rarity rushed over to Twilight, embracing her.
“There, there,” Rarity said, stroking Twilight’s mane, “I am sure we will find a way to save him and bring him home.” As she continued to comfort her, Rarity signaled for Rainbow Dash to join her and Twilight. When Rainbow baulked, Rarity gave a look that could cow a hydra and Rainbow soon joined in.
As they girls where locked in the group hug a wisp of smoke came into the library unnoticed until it started to swirl before Twilight. A moment later it coalesced into a roll of parchment that fell to the ground.
“What in the….”
“Pick it up Twilight, it must be important,” urged Rarity.
“Okay, okay.” Twilight grasped the scroll with her magic, unrolled it at eye level, and read its message aloud for all to hear.
“From Spike to Twilight Sparkle,”
“It’s from Spike! Is he ok, does he need rescuing?” Rainbow Dash was in the air, ready to go despite the day’s events.
“Yes is little Spikey-Wikey injured? If that mean thieving blue dragon has done anything to hurt Spike I’ll make him rue the day!”
“Quiet girls, if you would let me keep reading.”
“Oh course Dearie, do continue.”
“From Spike to Twilight Sparkle,
Hey Twilight! I am having fun on my quest of self-discovery. I hope everything in Ponyville is going well. This morning I met this really interesting dragon named Drake. It’s an odd name but he has been real informative. He is only a little older than me, but he is so much bigger, stronger and he can fly. He has offered to teach me about being a dragon, and even how to master my greed completely, although I think he needs my help to do that himself--he has been really vague about some stuff. Anyway Drake tells me that because of some risks involved in what he will be teaching me we have to leave Equestria, so I was hoping you could send us a copy of the world map and any information you have on the lands we are heading into.
Your Number One Assistant
“So Spike is ok,” Rainbow said, lowering herself to the ground.
“And he is leaving Equestria,” Rarity inquired with disbelief.
“It seems that way girls, and he isn’t coming back any time soon.” Twilight looked over the letter again, then her whole manner changed from sad to determined. “He won’t be back any time soon, but he still needs my help.” With that Twilight began running around the library sorting through books, making copies of this and that a whirlwind of activity.
“I think it is best we go Rainbow, lest we get in her way,” Rarity spoke while nudging Rainbow towards the door. “Twilight, we are going home but we will be back tomorrow to check on you.”
“Uh, oh yeah ok,” Twilight replied without turning from what she was doing. “See you then.”
Once outside the library Rainbow turned to Rarity and asked, “Do you think it’s safe to leave her alone tonight after everything that happened today?”
“Before she got Spike’s letter I would have agreed that we should stay with her, but she is going to be so focused on getting things together for Spike that we would just get in the way. Go home and heal up, tomorrow morning we will meet here and see how she is doing.”
“Ok, see you tomorrow then.” With that Rainbow took off towards her cloud house and Rarity walked back to her boutique. In the library Twilight continued to work at a feverish pace until she passed out for exhaustion brought on by the day’s events.
“And that is how we met.” Drake finished telling Spike his story, unedited and uncensored. “Now you know the whole truth about me, and it is time to rest. Go to bed, and sleep on everything I have told you tonight. If you still want me to I will begin teaching you in the morning.”
“But, but, wait if you’re…then how…and…” Spike stuttered, still trying to process everything Drake had said.
“Go to sleep. We will talk more in the morning,” Drake said as he settled down to sleep. Spike soon followed and within minutes both dragons were sound asleep, the moon and stars watching over them.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Chapter Five: Discovery
“The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust
The next day started as any other in that world. In Canterlot Celestia raised the sun as Luna lowered the moon, one waking and one beginning her slumber. The elite continued sleeping, never ones to wake early. The working ponies rose, or where already up preparing for another day at their jobs, many doing what they loved, but envying the rich and famous none the less.
In Ponyville the Apple family was already up and about its business, the Cakes and their apprentice were preparing for the morning rush by baking bagels, muffins, cinnamon buns and the like. Fluttershy was woken by a rooster and began her chores feeding the animals and caring for their other needs. Rarity slept, her mask and drapes fending off the sun’s light. Rainbow Dash snoozed, head hidden under Wonderbolt sheets, oblivious to the dawn. In the library Twilight fought on the edge of consciousness to return to dream land, but the sunlight would soon bring her into the realm of the waking.
Near a lake in the woods two dragons stirred, well one stirred and the other moaned attempting to preserve his dreams a bit longer.
“Wake up Spike, today we start training.” Drake sat up and stretched before spotting Spike asleep facing him near the remains of the previous night’s fire.
“Five more minutes Twilight, just five more minutes,’’ Spike yawned, rolling away from Drake.
Drake picked Spike up and began walking towards the lake. “You aren’t in Ponyville any more Spike, time to wake up and see the world,” stopping on the edge of the lake he moved Spike into one claw, drew his arm back, and threw the little dragon into the water.
One splash later a scream of shock rang out into the forest, “Ah, that’s cold!” Spike flailed about in the water trying to get his bearing after his rude awakening. “What the hay!”
If you don’t want to wake with the sun you can wake with a swim. If you can swim to shore on your own you can ask me one question. If not you will go hungry this morning,” Drake called out from the shore behind Spike only adding to his confusion
“But I don’t know how to swim,’ Spike replied splashing about in the water trying to keep his head from going under while focusing on the only thing he understood at the moment.
“Then learn,” Drake said as he jumped into the water and swam over to Spike, “Today is training day one, I will not be nice, and I will not be your friend when I am trying to teach you something. You are going to learn because if you don’t at some point someone is going suffer because of it. This may seem cruel, but this way you will not forget it.”
“But what do you know about being a dragon you’re some kind of alien here cause you messed up,” Spike yelled back memories of the previous evening surfacing along with anger that someone he thought was friendly and decent was treating him like this.
“True, but I know some about this world and I always have liked dragons, even if they were just myth. Besides I didn’t mess up, I made a wish and it was granted, just in an unexpected fashion.” Drake continued swimming around Spike, making sure to exaggerate his motions hoping Spike would pick up on how he was swimming. “Now pay attention, if you want breakfast you are going to have to swim to shore.
“But I already told you I don’t know how,” Spike fumed as he watched Drake doing laps around him with no visible effort.
“Well you have already mastered not drowning, since you’re treading water.”
“What, what do you mean.” Spike was confused, and took a moment to look himself over. He noticed that he was keeping his head above water, his earlier struggles no longer a problem, and was staying afloat of his own power. “How I am doing this.”
“It could just be natural talent, or it could be draconic need,” Drake said pausing to tread water in front of Spike seeing the opportunity for a lesson.
“Okay,” Spike began, “you have mentioned this ‘Need’ several times now but how does it work?”
“I told you that if you can swim to shore you can ask one question, you just asked it. I will tell you how Need works if you make it to shore, so shut your snout and do as I do.” Drake said looking Spike straight in the eye trying to see if he had made his point. When Spike nodded Drake began swimming around Spike talking him through everything he was doing twice before swimming towards shore while calling back, “You have gotten your instruction, now you have to put it into practice.”
Spike watched and listened to everything Drake did, when Drake began swimming to the shore Spike tried to follow. After several unsuccessful attempts to swim, which found his head underwater as much as above, Spike was able to move forward with a slow but steady paced doggy paddle using his tail to steer himself through the water. Eventually Spike reached the shore and crawled up off the beach exhausted by the swim.
“That wasn’t so bad now was it,’ said Drake as he stood over Spike’s gasping form. “I suppose you want me to explain how Need works to you then?”
“Yes…. Please…,” Spike wheezed out panting from exhaustion.
“Ok, sit up and pay attention.” Drake grabbed a large flat rock and a bit of charcoal from the remains of the campfire. “As I explained there are two growth forces on dragons Greed and Need.” Drake drew to intersecting circles labeling them as he went. “You already know that greed causes you to grow, work to enlarge your hoard, and in general improves your physical attributes that already exist at the cost of intelligent.” Drake wrote this in the area inside to circle labeled Greed. “On the other hand Need causes changes to your body that gives you an improved or new ability to complete tasks such a travel, swim, fight, see, hear, etc.” Drake wrote several these things inside to circle labeled Need. ”Now both of these cause your body to change, but the permanency of the change is the greatest difference between the two. Greed is potentially temporary, where any change caused by Need is permanent.”
“So what does throwing me into the lake have to do with any of this?’”
“Simple both Greed and Need require some form of catalyst to start them working.” Drake wrote several terms in the middle of the two circles. “A mental, physical, and emotional trigger is what both Greed and Need have in common. For Greed the triggers are usually related to materials such as possessions, while Need is usual triggered by environmental factors such as the need to travel a long distance.”
“This doesn’t explain why you through me into the lake,” Spike said intrigued by what he was learning, but still upset about how he was woken up.
“Simple Spike, we are going into a potentially dangerous part of the world, and are going to be doing thing that are going to be no doubt risky for the both of us. If you want to survive you are going to have to get bigger, stronger, and be able to fly.”
“So throwing me into the lake was….”
“A trigger to get you to start changing, send the message to your body that you need to change for the better get stronger, get bigger.”
“Ok, so what else will this entail,” now that he understood why things happened, Spike wanted to continue training since it was going to help him defend his friends after all.
“Well, more swimming, some sparring, tests to get basic necessities that can’t be accomplished without one or more of the things we are trying to change. You are going to also be testing me.”
“Why… what… that wasn’t part of the deal! How I am supposed to test you?”
“Simple I need you to teach me how to breath fire, spar with me so that I learn my new body, and, most importantly, because it wouldn’t be fair otherwise.” Drake looked hard at Spike, “So, do you still want to go with me, or do you wish to return home.”
Spike thought it over for a moment, and then remembered what Drake was offering, a chance to improve himself so he could protect his friends. “I’ll stay, make me strong, help me fly and I will teach you anything you want.”
“Alrighty then,” Drake said as he picked Spike up and placed him over by campfire. “I am going to get some fish, go ahead start another fire. Once we eat we’ll do some more training until Twilight sends you that map and any other stuff.”
Spike went rigid as an important realization hit him like a ton of bricks falling from a Pegasus carriage. Drake noticed and asked what was wrong concerned about why Spike froze up.
“I just realized that Twilight doesn’t know how to send me stuff with magic like the princess does,” Spike answered rubbing the back of his head, “and I don’t think that the spell is in any of the books she has either.”
“Well then I guess that you are going to write a letter from Twilight to Princess Celestia aren’t you?
“What, how, what I am I even suppose say,” Spike was nearly speechless, lie to Princess, and about Twilight.
“Simple you have written plenty of letters in the past, you should have an idea of how Twilight thinks. Just start it like any other, the say that you were wondering if she could send the spell she uses to have you receive her mail because ‘Spike is starting to grow up and she wants to be able to communicate to the Princess through you even when separated.’ Or something to that effect,” Drake finished with a wave of his hand as he slipped into the lake
“I guess I can do that.”
“Good now write that letter, send it, and rebuild the fire so we can have breakfast. I am going to go get us some food,” Drake said before submerging himself to find the fish.
Meanwhile in Canterlot Celestia was looking over proposals, requests, reports, laws and even an occasional love letter for an adoring subject when a scroll materialized in front of her floating momentarily then falling among her other papers.
“Oh, a letter for Twilight, I wonder what she’s learned about friendship this time. Beside, this will be the perfect distraction from all this tedious paperwork.” Celestia giddily unrolled the scroll with her telekinesis and began reading.
“Dear Princess Celestia,
I hope you are doing well, I am sorry that this isn’t a friendship report, promise one is coming soon; instead I need to ask you a question. I have noticed that since moving to Ponyville Spike and I are spending more and more time separated, and sometimes he isn’t there right when I have something to send you. I have also observed several cases, such as when Rarity was captured by Diamond Dogs, despite Spike’s heroic effort, that the ability for Spike and I to send messages between each other would have been useful. So the favor I want to ask, if it is not too much trouble, is could you send me instructions on the spell you use send Spike letters. I understand if you are too busy or you don’t want to but I think it would be really useful so just whenever you get a chance please just send it to me. Thank you very much, I promise my report is coming soon.
Your Faithful Student,
‘Well that was different from her usual letter, but it is good to hear that she is still looking to expand her horizons and is learning to think about others. I can see how being in a place where they can make new friends could cause them to be spending some time apart, though I hope she doesn’t let their relationship fall by the wayside.’ Celestia pulled a blank sheet of parchment from a nearby stack and dipped her quill in ink. ‘The spell she asked for is so useful I can understand why Twilight would want to learn it although it does suffer the drawback of requiring a dragon to act as either the receiver or the sender.’ Celestia, wrote down the spell with every bit of information she thought Twilight would like to know that she could remember. Before sending it she included a short note asking about how Spike was and if the Great Dragon Migration was affecting him any. Placing her seal on the scroll, Celestia ignited it sending the spell instructions to Spike and returned to her royal duties, her day slightly brightened.
“That was delicious wouldn’t you agree Spike.” Drake was propped up on his side next to the fire having finished off the last off the fish they had just cooked.
“I’m still not happy about eating meat, but… I’ll admit it wasn’t bad. The lemons and those herbs you found nearby made it better than yesterday’s dinner,” Spike said as he tossed some bones from his fish onto the pile that Drake had started. “So… you mentioned more training?”
“Yes I did, from now on I will not be supplying you with food, and you will either have to catch your own or reach the site where I put mine. Likewise I will not be allowed to cook my food except with a fire I start myself, although just as I will help you learn to hunt, you will be giving me lessons of fire breathing.”
“Ok and what about the fighting and greed control?” Spike was curious about these two the most because he could already see their advantages if ever something like Discord or an Ursa Minor were to pop up in Ponyville.
“Since we are waiting on the map and such we are going to spend the rest of today exercising and sparring, most of this we will make up as we go along. For the sparring though we will be trying get one another in such a way that we would win in a real fight.”
“But I am way smaller than you, how am I supposed to beat you,” Spike whined. He couldn’t believe that Drake thought he stood a chance in a fight.
“As you are now, you can’t, but this will help fuel your growth, and it will give us a chance to strategize for when we practice Greed,” Drake held up a hand when we saw Spike’s eyes light up. “Which we won’t be doing until we leave Equestria because of the risk of losing control, I don’t want either of us to go rampaging and wind up killing ponies,” Spike cringed at the thought, “Yeah and beside I don’t want to have powerful people mad at me for killing their subjects.”
Suddenly Spike burped up a letter with the royal Equestrian seal. Both of them stared at it for a moment, “Speaking of powerful people, I guess you should open it so we can double check its contents before sending it to Twilight.”
Spike nodded then picked up the letter, cutting it open with his claw he read over it then handed it to Drake who looked over it once, twice, a third time then sighed, “Shit.”
“Whats wrong Drake the letter seemed fine to me it had the spell and even included a question asking how I was taking the migration, kinda funny huh, I didn’t think the Princess thought about me that much.” Spike looked up at Drake who passed the letter back to him.
“Remember how last night we talked about me being from another reality.”
“Yeah,” Spike replied wondering where this was going.
“Well it seems that while we speak the same language we use a different writing system,” Drake said shaking his head in disgust and anger.
“It means that you get to add reading and writing to the list of things that you will be teaching me.”
“What!,” replied Spike stunned
“I can’t read or write using the system that you do, so I need you to teach it to me.”
“But I don’t… how… I…” Spike stuttered he had never had to teach someone before; it was always Celestia or Twilight who did the teaching. “Where would we start?”
“Simple each night you will teach me a bit of the language, we will start with the alphabet and once I understand how it is written we will move onto simple words. Once we have those down, I will attempt to read anything that we get and the books that Twilight will no doubt be sending.” Drake grimaced as he talked Spike through the lesson plan, it hurt his pride to ask this of Spike having already asked him to teach fire breathing.
“I think I can handle that, what do you want me to do this letter.” Spike held the letter up, uncertain about what to do. Drake looked upset, almost angry.
“Read it to me then if it sounds good, we send it. I want to understand how this spell works if at all possible. I understand that I probably won’t be able to comprehend some of the more technical magic stuff but none the less read away before we send it on.” Drake motioned for Spike to start reading.
Rainbow Dash drifted through the skies above Ponyville. That morning she had been late for work, but luckily there had not been much to do, just clear the skies for a bright and sunny day. Ten seconds later she was winging her way to the library to check on Twilight. Just as she was about to reach the library she noticed Rarity heading there as well and decided to join her.
“Hey Rarity, are you going to check on Twilight too?”
“Why yes, Rainbow Dash I’m worried she will have stayed up all night and still be putting things together for Spike-Wikey,” Rarity replied, “Care to join me?”
“Sure, I was heading that way myself. So you think she stayed up all night?”
“I won’t be surprised, then again she might have passed out at some point. Yesterday was very exhausting for all of us after all,” Rarity tapped her chin with a hoof thinking, “In fact I doubt she has had anything to eat since we got back either. Rainbow dearie, do you think you could get something from Sugarcube Corner and be back before I get to the library.”
Rainbow mocked a salute, and zipped away. Just a Rarity reached to door to the library Rainbow returned with a box of donuts and several muffins fresh from Sugarcube Corner.
“Kay I’m back,” Rainbow hovered with the basket held on her foreleg. “Should we knock or just go in?”
“It is a public library but I think we should still knock before we just go barraging in, especial after everything that happened yesterday, I would rather not startle the poor dear,” Rarity replied preparing to knock when suddenly they heard a loud crash followed by a yelp of pain from the inside. Rarity and Rainbow burst in through the door looking around to find the source of the commotion. They found an exhausted and unkempt Twilight under a pile of scrolls and large books.
“Twilight! Are you okay,” they cried out in unison while going over to help her. Rarity started lifting books away, stacking them off to the side as Rainbow grabbed Twilight and brought her to a clear spot in the library, no easy task given the messy state it was in.
“Dearie what is going on, the library is an absolute mess and you look dreadful,” Rarity inquired as she walked over with the goods from Sugarcube Corner, “Have something to eat then tell us what you have been doing since we left last night.” Rarity lifted a muffin over to Twilight who reluctantly grabbed it and started slowly nibbling.
“Oh girls is absolute terrible, horrible, unacceptable,” Twilight said after she ate a bite or two.
“What is Twilight, this is nothing I haven’t seen you handle,” Rainbow was deeply concerned, usually the library was in perfect order, and after Twilights reaction to possible tardiness she was afraid of a repeat of the cursed Smarty Pants doll.
“Well I got everything that Spike asked for, plus some other stuff I thought he could use. It is that pile over there,” Twilight said while motioning to the only organized pile in the library, with books, maps, a newspaper, and a bag of gems to top it off. “After I got that together I passed out, I woke up a few hours ago and was going to send it to him when I realized I have no way to send it to him. I can’t mail it because we don’t know where he is, and I can’t magic it to him because he is gone and I don’t know the spell the Princess uses.” Twilight was on the verge of another breakdown, tears forming in her eyes.
“But surely it’s in one of your books right,” Rainbow asked, “I mean you have all kinds of crazy spell books in here.”
“That what I thought, so I started looking for it, but I couldn’t find it in any of my books, so I started going through everything but… but… I don’t have it,” Twilight descended into tears, “And I can’t send a letter to the Princess asking for it, because I don’t have Spike, and if she finds out I lost him she might make me come back to Canterlot or lock me in the dungeons, or.. or…” Twilight was sobbing, her fears and imagination getting the best of her.
“Twilight dear, please stop crying, nothing like that is going to happen,” Rarity did her best to comfort Twilight but was merely pushed away.
“Yes it is, this is entirely my fault anyway if I hadn’t let him go he wouldn’t be gone.”
“Come on Twilight, you had no way of knowing what would happen, and don’t forget it was your thinking that saved us yesterday. Besides you are the smartest most eggheaded unicorn in all of Equestria heck the whole world, surely you can think of something,” Rainbow tried her hoof at cheering Twilight up. Surprisingly it worked.
“Your right, I am smart; I am the Princess’s prize student. I can figure this out.” With renewed energy Twilight stopped crying and got up to try to find a spell that would let her send Spike his care package.
“Oh no you don’t,” Rarity said as she forced Twilight to sit back down, “First you are going to eat some breakfast, you are going to get a shower and then get organized for the day, while you are doing that me and Rainbow will clean up the library so that you can actually get some work done on this problem.” When both Twilight and Rainbow made to protest Rarity sealed their mouths with her magic, “No arguments from either of you, now eat up and let us help you.” Rarity locked eyes with Twilight imparting her sincerity. Twilight nodded her acceptance and began to eat while Rarity and Rainbow started cleaning.
Once she finished her breakfast Twilight climbed into the shower, already feeling better. “They’re right I’ll find some way to send Spike what he asked for. I just needed to rest and eat something. I am already starting to feel recharged, yesterday must have wiped me out more than I thought.” The water cascaded down her neck and back falling to the ground before running into to drain. Once she had cleaned herself off from the grit of the previous day Twilight shut off the water and began to dry off. Just as she was finishing a flash of light surprised her causing her to fall down and scream out in fright.
“What’s wrong Rainbow,” Rarity called over when the Pegasus dropped the books she was organizing.
“Twilight screamed, probably needs our help,” Rainbow called as she rushed off to the upper floor.
“Rainbow, wait!” Rarity rushed after, worried. Then she heard Twilight start screaming, Rarity began running even faster, only to realize as she came crossed the threshold into Twilight’s bathroom that is was a scream of elation not fear. In the room she saw Rainbow cheering above a joyful Twilight who was clutching a letter.
“Rarity I got a letter, a letter from the Princess, it has the spell, everything I need to send Spike anything he asks for.” Twilight floated Rarity the letter letting her read it over, most of it was beyond her comprehension but she understood enough to know it was the real deal.
“Twilight this is wonderful, but how did the Princess know to send this?” Twilight stopped her celebration becoming very thoughtful.
“Hey Twilight you don’t think that Spike asked the princess for this do you,” asked Rainbow her head cocked to the side.
“You mean to tell me that….”
“Given what his last letter said and what I gathered from the Drake character during our short meeting its possible…”
“Girls do you mean to tell me that you think Spike sent a letter to the Princess to get me this spell, and that the dragon he ran off with would allow him.” Twilight was stunned by this line of reasoning it went against everything she thought she knew.
“I guess he did, but why?”
“Well dearie I suppose that the Drake fellow wants the information and if Spike shared his life story then by allowing you to send things to Spike he likely hopes to delay the Princess discovering what has happened.”
“What makes you say that Rarity,” Rainbow asked, “Now that Twilight has this spell could she just send a message telling Princess Celestia everything that happened?”
“Well, one given Twilights breakdown a little while ago, no offense dearie, I highly doubt that she will be telling the Princess,” Rarity stopped giving Twilight a chance to respond.
“She’s right Rainbow, I can’t risk telling the Princess.”
“And two do you really think that Drake won’t read everything Twilight sends beforehand to make sure we aren’t trying to follow him or inform the Princess after he let Spike get this spell.
“Fair enough,” Rainbow conceded.
“And lastly do you think this Drake fellow would want the Princes to know and risk having her after him.”
“I guess not,” Rainbow landed, bummed that her argument had been shot down.
“Rarity, how did you know all this,” a surprised Twilight asked never having expected that Rarity would have such understand of what was going on.
“Simple dearie, this is very much like one of my favorite mystery adventure suspense romance novels.” Rarity flicked a hoof through her mane quiet happy with herself. “Don’t you think you should be sending that map?”
“Oh you’re right, in all the excitement I had almost forgotten.” Twilight grabbed the letter rereading it as she walked over to the pile she had prepared. “Let’s see this says that the power required to send an object is directly related to the mass of the object and the distance being sent divide by the familiarity coefficient of the parties involved which can be calculated based on time spent together, amount of shared memories, knowledge of one another habits…”Rainbow and Rarity watched as Twilight prepared to do the spell excited to see it work.
Two hours later Rainbow had stopped paying any attention as Twilight had continued to drone on about the spell, then rushed off to do the math, then come back to read some more. Instead she had picked up a copy of the Daring Do she was currently reading and was slowly turning her way through Daring Do and the Heliotrope Hippopotamus. Nearby Rarity was doodling on some scrap paper coming up with fanciful and ridiculous designs just to pass the time. Finally Twilight put the letter down and looked over the stack she was sending to Spike, now broken into two smaller piles.
“Ok girls I think I am ready to try the spell just watch yourself, usually when a spell doesn’t work the backfire is kinda explodey,” Twilight said with a very sheepish smile on her face.
“Finally,” Rainbow groaned as she put the Daring Do book down, “I thought you would never be ready. By the way how explodey are we talking, shield your eyes explodey or hid behind the book fort explodey.”
“Well given how much power this is going to take… Hey what do you mean ‘book fort!’” Twilight began bearing down on Rainbow enraged at the thought of harm coming to her books.
“Rainbow insisted on arranging the books into a fortress of ‘entertainment and eggheadery’ as she called it, but she is right, how worried do we need to be,” Rarity asked hoping to bring Twilight back on target, not to mention if this was going to explode Rarity didn’t want it scorching her fur for a second day in a row.
“Um,” Twilight rubbed her jaw with a hoof, “get behind the book fort.” Rainbow and Rarity dived into cover then resurfaced with helmets on to watch Twilight’s attempt.
“Ok girls, here goes nothing.” Then just as Twilight began charging the spell someone starting knocking desperately on the library door, with her concentration broken the spell discharged spectacularly in an uncontrolled release of energy that left her smoky and blackened.
“This is a public library you can just come in, there is no need to knock,” Twilight yelled once she stopped coughing. The door opened, pink blur slipped in, and the door closed quicker than the eye can see
“Twilight, are you ok, who’s at the door?”
“Yeah, that was a pretty spectacular backfire by the way.” Rainbow and Rarity remained hunkered behind their fortifications.
“I don’t know, let me check. Since they don’t seem to understand that they can just come in.”
“Don’t do that,” a new voice called out.
Suddenly Pinkie Pie popped up in between Rarity and Rainbow dressed in pink camouflage body armor and a helmet with balloons coming off it. “Don’t open that! I was at the door, I knocked because the sign says closed, might to change that. Also why are we hiding in a book fort while Twilight makes explosions, is this a new game.”
“No Pinkie, I am testing a new spell that will allow me to send things to Spike like the Princess does,” Twilight explained as she went about preparing to cast the spell. “Now please be quiet so that I can get this right.”
“But why do you need to send stuff to Spike, won’t he be back by nightfall.”
“Well you see….”
“Pinkie I am going to destroy you, git back here right now” a country accented voice yelled angrily
“What now,” Twilight groaned wondering how much more would happen before she could test the spell.
“I’m not here, and you haven’t seen me,” Pinkie said as she ducked down behind the book fort.
A moment later a very angry, very formal looking Applejack burst through the door, “Where is she, have y’all seen her?”
“Why Applejack you look absolutely stunning, why ever are you in that adorable dress, and why didn’t you come to me for help with your hair and make-up,” Rarity asked pouting slightly towards the end as she left the book fort to look Applejack over.
“It was Pinkie Pie, she done this to me, and when Aye get my hoofs on her…”
“But darling you look absolutely stunning, why so angry.”
“Yeah AJ you look good enough to actually get a date.”
“And just what in the hay is that supposed to mean,” Applejack challenged as she advanced on Rainbow a fiery anger in her eyes.
“Nothing,” Rainbow meeped. “Hey you are looking for Pinkie right, her she is.” Rainbow grabbed Pinkie before she could flee and held her up to hide from Applejack’s gaze.
“Now Aye got you ya varmint,” Applejack smiled evilly.
“Hey Twilight weren’t you going to say something about Spike,” Pinkie tried for miss direction. “Don’t let her hurt me,” Pinkie whispered behind her hoof.
“Yes, Applejack why don’t you come over here and since it is such torment for you I will restore you to your, ‘natural beauty’ since it seems that fashion and make-up makes you homicidal,” Rarity waved to a beanbag she had moved next to her along with a make-up kit and hair brushes that had appeared out of nowhere.
“Well okay, since there is no permanent harm done. But Pinkie,”
“Yeah,” the scared party ponies stammered
“Aye’ll get ya back just you wait.” Applejack walked over to Rarity and sat down saying, “Don’t you dare try to gussy me up any neither, just get this fancy stuffy getup off me and get my mane outta this ridiculous style.
As Rarity began to work on Applejack and Rainbow tried to apologize to Pinkie for ratting her out Twilight asked, “Ok Pinkie, Applejack, and anypony else who wants to join in are you ready for story time?”
“Well, I would like to get something to drink first, that is if it’s alright with you, if you don’t mind, I’ll get you one too if you want any, sorry.”
“Fluttershy! When did you get here?”
Fluttershy looked at the ground tracing circles with her right hoof. “Oh I was coming by to drop off that veterinary medicine book I borrowed when I heard Applejack yelling. So I just slipped in and decided to wait until she had calmed down before bothering you. I hope you don’t mind, I can leave if you want.” Fluttershy dropped the book on the front counter and began to leave.
“Fluttershy wait, you don’t have to leave,’ Rainbow rushed over to stop her since Rarity was busy and the string of events had left Twilight frozen gaping like a fish. “Let’s grab some drinks then Twilight can tell you girls about the adventure we had yesterday.”
“Oh, ok.” Fluttershy turned around and went with Rainbow into the kitchen to get everyone a drink.
“What’s this ‘bout y’all going on an adventure,” Applejack asked Rarity as she combed her mane.
“Oh it was truly an ordeal, but I think Twilight can tell it best, beside I think it will do her some good, then you can stay as she tries the spell the princess sent her this morning again.” Rarity continued combing not missing a beat.
A short time later everypony had gathered in the main room of the library spread out across several benches and beanbag chairs sipping their drinks. Applejack was restored to her normal look, Rarity was next who had Rainbow beside her. Fluttershy sat on the other side of Rainbow while Pinkie Pie occupied the last spot along the semicircle exchanging between starring daggers as Rainbow and looking onwards hopefully for Twilight to begin her story. Twilight was seated in the center of the semicircle papers with story notes arrayed before her.
“If everyone’s ready,” a series of nodded and affirmations emanated from her friends. “Ok our story starts yesterday…………’
Authors Note: Chapter Five done and out, read through it trying to catch grammar errors or things that don't make sense but when you come across something just let me know. Thank you to everyone that has favorited this story. I want ya'll to know that I have plenty planned,, just don't be surprised if the update speed is kinda slow
Chapter Six: You’ve Got Mail
“I'm certainly getting a lot more mail... that's basically it.” Sam Mendes
“...And then this morning I got a letter for Princess Celestia with the spell she uses to send messages to Spike. I was going to try and send him what he asked for and some other stuff when Pinkie burst through the door interrupting me and you all know how it goes from there.” Twilight finished her story having had liberal help from Rarity and Rainbow Dash at different points throughout. Around her the others sat stunned. Fluttershy had spent a great deal of the time hiding behind her mane or clutching onto Rarity and Rainbow, whichever one wasn’t adding their perspective to the story. Pinkie had started the story with a box of popcorn, but by the end she was busy reenacting the story based on her own understanding of it. Applejack had just sat there throughout, listening.
“Well Aye say that is quite adventure ya’ll had yesterday,” Applejack said. “So this spell you got, it’s gonna let ya send stuff to Spike, who went off with some big dragon named Drake, only for them to turn around and get this spell from the Princess for you.”
“Yes, and now if everyone doesn’t mind I would like very much to go ahead and use that spell,” said Twilight as she stood up. “If you want to stay and watch I suggest you take cover behind Rainbow’s ‘book fort’ in case something goes wrong, again.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“If you don’t mind.”
“Yay, dog fort come in dog fort this is book fort.”
“Right away dearie… Pinkie what in Equestria are you doing.”
“Alright let’s see some cool spell casting.”
As her friends took cover Twilight started charging the spell to send the first stack of resources to Spike. As the spell charged the lights in the room went out causing the building energies to cast an eerie glow on the library. Without warning the spell discharged, but rather than blowing up and covering the library with smoke and soot it flew towards the first stack causing it to dematerialize and disappear in a flash. In the dim library Twilight’s friends sat shocked by the display jaws resting on the floor.
Twilight opened her eyes to see the stack gone; despite feeling light-headed she stayed upright and turned to her friends asking, “Did it work?” Her friends nodded confirming her success. “Oh good, that wasn’t so hard,” Twilight said before falling over.
“TWILIGHT,” they all called out rushing to her side.
“Hey are you alright.”
“Twilight wake up.”
“Give ‘er some space.”
“Twilight dearie, can you her me.”
“Uh-huh. I’ll be okay,” Twilight said as she came to. “That just took more out of me than I was expecting, either they are further away than we thought, or I don’t know Spike as well I as thought I do.”
“That was so cool Twilight hey since you can send the stuff do you think that there might be a way to track where it goes,” Rainbow asked as she hovered above the group.
“I don’t know, let me recover and we can try it. Although I think I am going to break this next stack apart.
It was early afternoon in a once pristine clearing near the lake Spike was breathing hard, fighting to stand up. His nose was running with blood and several of his scales were broken or fallen out. Across from him Drake was breathing heavy as well a thin trail of red running out from his mouth, and scorch marks.
‘Who’d have thought the little guy was so tough, sure I didn’t expect him to be a pushover but he has more in him than I thought, although insulting his loved ones might have been a bit much. Next go I am gonna make him submit and end this spar, else he might end up seriously injured,’ Drake though as he waited to see if Spike would charge him again.
“Oww,” Spike hissed softly. ‘I have to get back up, show him that I can be strong, that I am not a liability to my friends. Can’t let him get away with what he said; don’t care if it was to help me fight. I’m not stopping till he gives up,’ Spike thought as he pushed himself up when he felt a familiar rumbling in his gut. His cheeks bugled and a second later a blast of green flame came out with a belch.
Drake dived to the left thinking Spike was attacking again. Rolling to his feet Drake started running towards Spike, planning to make him submit and end the sparring match. Just as he was about to reach him, Spike threw up his hand in front of him and yell, “Stop! That wasn’t an attack that was a bunch of mail.”
“Mail,” Drake asked as he skidded to a stop next to Spike.
“Yeah, looks like Twilight finally figured out that spell,” Spike laughed as he motioned to the pile of books, scrolls and other resources in front of him. “But it seems she went overboard on what she thought we could use.”
“Indeed,” Drake said as he looked it over. “Guess we should go ahead and sort through it figure out we what we need to take with us, what we might be able to use, and if there is anything else we need to send back.”
“Why would we need to send anything back,’ Spike asked as he began sorting the through the pile while Drake moved to separate the stuff into piles of books, scrolls, etc.
“Because we can’t carry everything with us, even using your sack on a stick we will have to leave most of this behind.”
“Oh,” Spike said as he looked through the stuff, “well maybe Twilight sent a bag or something to carry the stuff in.”
After they had sorted through about half the pile putting the map, a book on exotic flora and fauna, and a first aid kit off the side Spike felt another delivery building in his gut. “Oh come on,” he moaned before burping up another bunch of resources. “Seriously Twilight, send the whole library why don’t you.”
“What was that,” Drake asked returning from a quick bathroom break.
“We got another delivery.”
“Dang, how much is she going to send?”
“Don’t…” Spike was cut off as a third delivery materialized out of his flame, “know.”
“Well let’s hope that is all,” Drake said as he went back to sorting thought all the materials. Spike nodded and returned to work alongside him.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
That evening the pair sat around a campfire looking over the map trying to figure out where they were and where they should go to leave Equestria. Nearby sat two pile, a small pile which included a book on the different flora and fauna known to pony kind, a reference guide on the culture and habits of different races, a medical manual complete with recipes for different herbal medicines, a pair of blank journal, a single story book, the first aid kit, and a dictionary. The other pile was much larger and included books such as Camping for Eggheads, An Introduction of Long Distance Travel, and a myriad of other books that weren’t of lasting necessity to the duo.
“Well based on what I can tell this lake here should be us,” Drake said pointing to a small blue bot in the center of the map just a little way northeast of Canterlot.
“Wow that put us way further from Ponyville than I thought,” Spike responded surprised by just how far he had traveled in just a few days.
“Well this is just a guess, but those volcanos over here should be where we met,” Drake explained tapping the map.
“Then we flew northwest outta there, and this is the first lake along such a path.”
“Well, then where are we going to go from here?”
“I figured we could turn west and head towards that gap in the mountains along the western border that extends down to this area marked with… a buffalo head right?”
“Yeah, say here that is the Buffalo Territories,” Spike said before asking, “So what do you think is out there, the only thing beyond those mountain seems to be plains marked ‘Wildlands and a note about here thar be monsters.”
“Really, it says ‘here thar be monsters,’” Drake asked suppressing a bit of laughter.
“Yep there is a fort called Bastion in the gap, then everything beyond is essentially unexplored.”
“Guess that means we get to go exploring a whole new world.” Drake said excitement sparkling in his eyes.
”Yeah, hey why did you want to bring the two journals and the dictionary anyway.”
“Well I figured the dictionary would be useful for teaching me to read and I could use one journal to learn to write, and keep a record of everything that happens.”
“And the other one?”
“Oh, I think you should keep a journal too. It will be a good redundancy to mine, plus don’t you think Twilight will want to know all about your journey. Or maybe you could publish it and it will become an adventure tale that everyone will want to read. A story with thrill, adventure, self-discovery and who knows what else.”
“Hey that sounds great. I think I am going to go ahead and start it tonight,” Spike said getting up to retrieve the book.
“Fine by me,” Drake replied, “I am going to go ahead and turn in, don’t stay up too late, we have to send the stuff we can’t take with us back tomorrow morning, then we will head out towards the Wildland.” With that Drake settled into sleep while Spike began his journal.
Author’s Note: Ok this is the set-up for the first part of the story out of the way. For the next couple of chapters or so depending on how long I make them everything is going to start from an entry in Spike journal, but may transition to the events as they happened, but will likely be from Spike’s perspective. As always thanks to every who reads, and has Favorited.
Chapter 7: Entry Two
“If you wish to inflict a heartless and malignant punishment upon a young person, pledge him to keep a journal a year.”
- The Innocents Abroad
(Entry one would cover most everything you already read.)
Adventure Log: Day Two
Today is my second day of keeping this record. I hope that later entries will be more interesting than this one. We woke up early, and this time I learned to get up quick, avoiding another unexpected swimming lesson. We did a little bit of what Drake called “classroom time”, where we went over how he has been catching fish and getting other food, and I showed him how I breathe fire and how the Equestrian alphabet worked. After that, we finally sent the stuff we didn’t need back to Twilight and set off into the sky.
While we were flying he started talking to me about all kinds of crazy impossible sounding things handheld devices with the entire of his races knowledge in them, medicine that could replace failed organs, machines that do the work ponies do and other things both amazing and horrifying.Then without warning he flipped over and dropped me. As I was falling he showed up next to me and told me he would only catch me if I could stabilize my fall, and then started walking me through how to accomplish this. How he knew how to do this was beyond me; maybe he learned as he figured out flying for himself. Once he caught me, Drake said it was “to help develop my flying skills”, but I think it was just because he is a little bit loony. I keep asking myself what I have gotten into, but then I remember what he is offering me; a chance to learn about dragons, and a chance to harness my greatest fear, my greed, to be my greatest strength. There is just too much here to pass up.
After a few more free falls he went back to talking. When I asked when he thought we might be coming back to Equestria, he laughed and said we hadn’t even left yet. When I asked again he said we would arrive “in time for a wedding.” I asked what he meant by that but he wouldn’t say, and just threatened to drop me again.
We stopped when the sun first started to touch the horizon and found a large cave we’ll be staying in tonight. This place has a weird feel to it, but when I brought it up with Drake he dismissed it, saying, “If you can’t figure out what is causing that feeling, best just be on guard and ready of anything.” As we entered the cave there were a bunch of old skeletons that had some armor and weapons. There was a minotaur, a griffin, a pony and a something that looked somewhat like a diamond dog, but a little different. We rifled through the bones, looking for anything we could use. I was against it because of how old it looked: It felt like we were desecrating a grave, but Drake said that there was a chance we could learn something from it. In the end all we could use was some strange gold coins and glass vials with an odd glowing liquid in them. Drake said they were probably an adventuring party from hundreds of year ago. I think that they might be even older, preserved by whatever is giving me the heebie-jeebies.
Drake surprised me when he said we were going to bury the bodies, and bury them we did before sparring for about an hour. Once we finished sparring, Drake went off saying it was time to find food, and that I was on my own for that tonight. I managed to find some berries to eat. While they were filling I was still pretty hungry, when a bunny burst out in front of my path. I am not sure what came over me but I breathed fire at it as soon as I saw it. I hope it died quickly, but I did find it surprisingly satisfying.
Drake came back to the cave fairly late with a boar in his claws. I offered to cook it for him, but he said that if he couldn’t cook it himself the he “ain’t getting no bacon tonight.” It was kind of sad to watch in all honesty, but after about an hour of trying he gave up and ate it raw, probably the most disturbing thing I have ever seen. He however said it was surprisingly delicious. I hope he never meets Fluttershy--that could only end poorly.
Tomorrow we continue our journey, and if we are on course then it should only be another two or so days before we leave Equestria and explore lands no pony has explored before. Nothing left to say for now aside from good night, and I hope tomorrow is more eventful.
Chapter 8: Testing by Hydra
“Pessimism never won any battle.”
Adventure Log: Day Three
When I said I hoped today would be more interesting, I was in no way hoping it would be like this. It started the same as yesterday: wake up, eat, study, teach, and then off into the sky. It was about noon when we first saw a gap in the mountains where Fort Bastion stood guard. Soon thereafter we saw this cloud of dust rising up for the ground. Drake decided we should go investigate…
“Hey Spike, do you see that cloud of dust rising up to the south?” Drake asked, intrigued by what could be causing it.
“Yeah, I wonder what could be causing it, the only things on the map out this way is the road to Fort Bastion and some little towns along it,” Spike replied, wondering what could be big enough to stir up that much dust.
Drake banked left and aligned to the rising dust, “Well then let’s find out.”
After thirty minutes on their new heading they found something that was indeed worrisome and intriguing. On the ground a five-headed hydra, even bigger than the one from Froggy Bottom Bog, was chasing two unicorns in a strange contraption that was racing along the road in a desperate attempt to escape.
In the air the two dragons thought that there was something familiar about the unicorns and their machine, but couldn’t put a finger on it. Instead of trying to solve the mystery from the sky, Drake dove towards the ground, landing in the woods lining the road.
“Stay here and keep your eye on what happens, Spike,” Drake said as he landed and let Spike off onto the ground. “I am going to take that hydra out before it can eat those unicorns; you are not big or strong enough to do anything but get in the way and get hurt.”
“No way! You don’t have any clue what you are doing, “Spike retorted, a little scared at what Drake was suggesting. Spike honestly didn’t think Drake could beat a hydra that big, if he couldn’t breathe fire, and was just some alien turned into a dragon. Of course Spike didn’t know about his fight with Red and his goons but rather based his expectations on his own perception of how a dragon should fight. “Why can’t you just grab the unicorns then we make a break for--”
“Because,” Drake said as he stretched, preparing to take flight, “I wouldn’t get to fight a hydra if we did that.” With Spike left speechless, Drake took off, recalling everything he could about hydras.
‘OK rule one: Don’t cut off the heads; we all know how that worked out for Hercules. Two: Multiple heads; just ‘cause I dodge one doesn’t mean I dodged them all. Three: Two legs are unstable; I might be able to tip it over. Four: Scales, and I am willing to bet they are like a dragon’s, so they are going to be a tough nut to crack.” By this time Drake was well above the hydra. “Well Tiny, what say we have a dance and find out just how strong I am now,” he muttered before sending himself into a spiraling dive, wings tucked, legs in, arms front and claws out with an angry roar, issuing forth a challenge that could be heard for miles around.
Now when you hear a dragon roar right above you it is customary to look and see if you are about to be toasted, eaten, kidnapped, or suffer any number of different horrors. Stop and look up the unicorns and hydra did, to see a blue streak coming down from sky at incredible speed. Gravity, don’t mess with it. A short baited breath or two later Drake crashed into the hydra, grabbing one of it’s neck and slamming it into the ground, kicking up a huge cloud of dust.
Spike watched the scene from the tree line, shocked by what Drake had pulled off. In front of the dust the strange machine stopped, the unicorns onboard too shocked to keep powering it. The other four heads of the hydra turned their attention to the cloud of dust, darting in to snap at the comparatively small dragon that dared attack it. No one was quite as shocked as the one who had caused this scene.
‘Well cover me in chocolate and call me a strawberry,’ Drake thought within the dust cloud, standing on top the head he had yanked down. ‘That was fricken sweet. I was afraid it wouldn’t work for a second there.’ Suddenly one of the other heads appeared from out the haze, snapping its giant jaws at him. Drake jumped back while taking a swipe at the offending head, only to have to dodge out of the way as another appeared on his right.
The next thing those on the outside of the struggle saw was Drake flying back out of the dust while a hydra head was withdrawing from the cloud, blood seeping from its nose, and another shooting out after the dragon. As the dust settled it became clear that the head Drake had slammed into the ground was never getting up; the blood leaking from underneath it continued to pool unabated. Drake thought this to be a good thing, at least right up until two other heads bit the limp appendage near its base and began tearing chunks of flesh away. Before anyone could fully process what was happening the hydra had removed the deceased head and was in the process of growing two new ones to replace it. Drake took off, hoping to repeat his previous stunt before the new head could grow in, or at the very least get out of the hydra’s range, but even as he took off the two heads not occupied removing the neck saw him and attacked. While neither landed a solid bite they did manage to send Drake crashing back to the ground when one of the heads slammed into him after he dodged its snapping jaws.
From his vantage point, Spike saw Drake crash, and while he was getting up the new pair of heads finished growing out. He also noticed that the twin unicorns, who he knew he had seen somewhere, were still frozen in place, seemingly overwhelmed by the battle raging around them. Instead of letting them stay there and get caught in the battle, Spike called out, “Hey! Get over here or you’re going to get crushed!”
Not ones to question anything at this point, they powered up there vehicle with a green glow and moved towards the sound of the voice. Once they reached him they were surprised to see yet another dragon, although much smaller and less threatening than the other one. “Brother is that what I think it is?”
“Why yes brother, but since the other one seems to be helping us out, perhaps it would be best if we joined him here on the sidelines until the fight is over.” With that the brothers fell silent and turned their attention to the fight, where Drake was having trouble.
‘I can’t keep this up,’ Drake thought as he danced away from the hydra’s snakelike strikes. ‘Sooner or later one of these heads is going to get me. Plus if I--whoa!--incapacitate one then the others will just rip it off.’ Drake continued jumping back while taking every chance he got to slash any one of the hydra’s now seven faces, occasionally trying to fly up until he was forced back to the ground.
‘Then again, that may be in my favor…yeah let’s try that.’ Armed with a plan, Drake charged the hydra, getting up close to where the necks attached to the body. He jumped onto its back and used his serrated tail to try and slit a pair of the necks by jerking it hard side to side. Fortunately for him, he jumped in between the two new necks, whose scales were still soft, having just formed. As the two necks began to bleed out, the rest of the hydra’s heads attempted to remove the injured appendages and regrow new ones to stop the bleeding, odd as it may sound. With the hydra’s remaining heads’ attention focused on that task, it paid no attention to the dragon on its back.
Rather than wait for the hydra to finish its business, Drake began to tear into the hydra’s flesh, digging into its back using his claws, jaws, and at one point attempting to spear it with his tail, trying get through the outer layers of scales and muscle. The hydra quickly noticed Drake’s actions, and changed its focus once again to the pest causing it pain. Fortunately for Drake he had broken through to the body cavity, and rather than let the Hydra consume him, he dived in just as the hydra snapped down on where he stood.
For those on the sidelines it was seemed it was all over, the hydra having gotten the better of him. “He saved our lives brother,” said the unicorn with the moustache.
“That he did. Come, we need to leave, lest his sacrifice be in vain…hmm, what about the other one?”
The mustachioed brother shrugged. “Ask him if he wants to come with us, but we must be going.”
“Wait!” Spike called out, his eyes still locked on the hydra, praying Drake would somehow survive. “Look at the hydra.” The brothers turned and peaked through the tree line to see the hydra was not looking for them as expected, but was rather stumbling about, two necks with chunks missing dragging on the ground, and blood leaking from them and a hole on its back. Without warning the surviving heads let out a wail of pain, shaking the spectators to their very core. It began stumbling about on the road before falling over on its side. As they continued watching, they noticed something moving underneath the hydra’s skin, along its belly. Suddenly, a bloody blue claw burst out, followed by another. Together they tore open a hole, through which Drake’s head emerged.
‘Air air air, oh sweet mother of mercy so sweet is the taste of air,’ Drake thought as he took a deep breath of fresh air. Turning to the tree line he called out, “Come on out ya’ll, it’s safe.” Opening up the belly so he could step upb Drake patted the hydra. “Don’t worry about this guy, he’s done and out.” Spike came out first, running up to see for himself, still in a state of mild disbelief over what he had just seen. Next came the machine with the unicorns on it, slowly edging its way out of the trees, its riders reluctant to meet Drake, but not willing to risk his wrath.
“My name is Drake, and this little guy is Spike,” Drake said, introducing himself and Spike to the ponies he had saved, before asking, “Who are you and what are you doing in this remote corner of Equestria?”
“Excellent question my fine fellow,” said the clean shaven one. “One that we feel best answered in song,” The brother inhaled and began to sing
“We’re the world famous Flim Flam Brothers--”
Before the song to could go on any longer, Drake interrupted for the sake of his sanity. “Stop stop, no singing necessary, just tell me your names.”
Shaking, the brothers looked at one another before speaking in turn.
“I’m Flam,” said the unicorn with the mustache.
“And I’m Flim,” said the one who was cleanly shaven. “And the reason we are out here is rather long and something we would rather not get into here and now; perhaps at a later time.”
“Wait I know who you are,” Spike spoke up, their identities finally dawning on him. “You two are those smooth-talking ponies who tried to take over Applejack’s farm this past cider season.” Spike glared accusatorily at Flim and Flam. At first the brothers were shocked that he had identified them, for that incident of all reasons, but then they became curious.
“How do you know about that, if you don’t mind my asking?” questioned Flam.
“I was there,” Spike replied, puffing out his chest as he continued, “I’m Twilight Sparkle’s number one assistant, currently on a journey of self-discovery, but I was there for the whole competition you participated in. Drake, these guys are bad news.”
“That they may be,” Drake said, looking down at Spike while still covered in blood. “None the less, I have some questions for these questionable cider producers that I will have answered…won’t I?” Drake asked, eyeing the brothers hard, as if daring them to defy him.
“Y-yes...” Flim and Flam said shakily, their focus returning to Drake: a rather large, bloody dragon standing upright, resting on the corpse of a hydra with entrails spilling out of a hole big enough for the twelve foot dragon to step out of. “Yes, of course! Any questions you have for us we have answers for you.”
“Good. There is a lake near here, off to the northwest that should be visible from the road.” Drake said, motioning for Spike to pull out the map.
“This one?” Spike asked, pointing to a small blue dot on the map.
“Yep, that should be it. Ya’ll see which lake he’s pointing to?”
“Yes, my good sir we do, we see exactly where it is you want us to be,” Flim and Flam said, their voices cracking slightly.
“Good, then I want you to meet me there in about two hours; that should be enough time for you to get there, right?”
“Yes but of course! With the Super Speedy Cider Squeeze 6000 that will be no problem.”
“Good, go ahead and get going. I need to talk to Spike without others around.”
After Flim and Flam set off, Drake turned to me and told me that I had to get there under my own power, because if I couldn’t, he would meet me at the border in three days. I didn’t know if he was bluffing or not, and I wasn’t eager to find out. As he took off, I started running. Do you know how long it took to get there? Four hours. Four hours of non-stop running. Sure, it wasn’t a sprint the whole way but still, that has to be longest I have ever gone without stopping. The funny thing is sure, I got tired after the first thirty to forty minutes or so, but then it just disappeared, and I was able to maintain my pace the whole way--even picking it up from time to time. I wonder if it was because of that ‘Need’ aspect of being a dragon that Drake had mentioned.
Anyway, it took me four hours, but Flim and Flam got there in just one, and Drake was there long before them. When I got here, his exact words were “Well what took you, I’ve had time to bathe, hunt, and take a nap while waiting on you.” And he had. When he got here he jumped in the lake and scrubbed all the blood off himself using sand and some rough stones. Then when Flim and Flam arrived, he told them to park their contraption and find food. The brothers found some strawberries, onions, and sweet grass. Drake, however, killed a deer, not a big one, but still bigger than the boar he ate yesterday. While Flim and Flam had looks of horror on their faces, he told them to relax before taking a nap.
Once I got here he tore a leg off the deer and gave it to me, saying that since I made it I didn’t have to hunt tonight. It felt wrong to eat it on front of Flim and Flam, but I was so hungry that I scarfed it down anyway. As we were all eating our dinners, Drake began asking Flim and Flam all kinds of question, like what did their Cutie Marks stand for, how did they get them, what were they doing out here, and what happened after they got run out of Ponyville.
The brothers told an interesting tale, breaking in to song at points; sometimes Drake allowed it, while others he shut it down. Regardless, their story condensed down to Flam, the mustachioed one with the apple missing a slice for a Cutie Mark, was the big picture pony, and always had been, while Flim, with the single apple slice, had always been better at the fine details. Growing up they were always pulling different scams and rackets, even inventing things from time to time. They got their cutie marks during a school science fair, where they won first prize for a homemade unicorn powered oven that cooked individual apple pies. After that they kept inventing different apple themed, products until they heard about how Ponyville would always run out of cider. Enter the Super Speedy Cider Squeeze 6000, which they hoped to use to become rich and famous for their inventions. Unfortunately for them they sacrificed their quality control, and despite winning the competition, got run out of town.
Oddly enough they returned that evening and spoke to the Apple family. They cut a deal: Flim and Flam would manufacture cider for Sweet Apple Acres, but they could only sell it outside of Ponyville, with a quarter of the profit going back to the Apple family. Additionally, they could only buy apples to produce the cider from the Apple family itself. With the deal in hoof they took the cider they had made, tossed out to bad stuff, and kept the barrels that had been made while the quality control was active. They had been traveling to sell the cider, and decided they should try the ‘untapped market’ that was the Northwestern Frontier, and finish with Fort Bastion.
After the life story of the Flim-Flam brothers, Drake surprised everyone when he invited them to stay with us. Seriously did not see that one coming. He said they could give their answer in the morning, but that we were going to be exploring a vast untouched world with who knows what for the taking, and were in great need of creative ponies with a flair for the diplomatic. When he said that, I swear I saw Flim’s and Flam’s eyes turn into bit symbols, so I guess they are going to be tagging along with us.
I asked Drake later when Flim and Flam couldn’t hear why he was bringing them along. His answer was, “They are bright, inventive and smooth talking; just the kind of people I want with me when going into an unexplored place, and as an added bonus they can carry all our luggage.” So I guess he was serious with what he told them.
When I asked how they were supposed to keep up with us and find us each night with us in the air and them on the ground, he told me that he would sleep on it and have an answer in the morning.
That’s pretty much everything that happened today: action packed and full of the unexpected. Our group has grown, and based on when I looked at the map last, we should be exiting Equestria sometime the day after tomorrow, unless something else happens to get us off track. Hopefully we can get through tomorrow without having to see Drake climb out of the inside of some monster.
Chapter 9: Travel
I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.
Today was much less eventful than yesterday, woke up at the crack of dawn and found Drake busy working on something with Flim and Flam. When I asked what it was about he said he had figured out a solution to the issue I brought up last night. On the SSCS 6000, as I am henceforth writing it, Flam and Flam stood with one of Drakes scales. He explained that he had worked with the brothers and found a way to enchant the scale so that they could always find him. Not only that but it was possible for them to send Drake a signal with their location as well.
With that issue worked out Drake and I sent about an hour exercising, not sparring, Drake said that it was important to vary our workout, but I think it was because he got hurt worse than he lets on in his fight against the hydra. While we were exercising Flim and Flam had their breakfast.
After we finished Drake asked the brothers if they were going to stick with us, more a as formality at this point than anything, and as expected they said, “yes”. With that taken care of we pulled out the map and picked a spot to meet tonight. We picked a cliff face just south of the gap and set away from any towns and a ways off the road too, but Flim and Flam were sure they could make it so they set off ahead of me and Drake.
After they left we had our classroom time, Drake is picking up on reading and writing real fast, but still hasn’t even produced smoke when trying to breathe fire. For my classroom bit we went over the fight and discuss what went well and what went poorly as well as different was to fight other creatures. We set off, and made good time, but we stopped a number of times, Drake said that is was so we didn’t get there to soon ahead of the brothers, but I think it was because he was hurting from his fight with the hydra.
This evening we met Flim and Flam, had dinner, and just talked about how we are going to handle crossing through the gap tomorrow. All in all it was a good easy day.
Today we crossed the border, and the difference is stark and startling. The grass had a brown shift to it all, like wheat ready for the harvest, and was uncared for. I pointed this out to Drake and he said it was probably because the mountain restricted moisture from passing through them, or because there are no ponies maintaining the environment out here. He flew throughout the whole day with much fewer stops until he found a shallow canyon with trees growing on either side. Once he was sure that Flim and Flam were coming, I assume this is thanks to that scale he gave them, he sat down and we had a long classroom session.
Flim and Flam arrived late after the sun went down. Drake asked how they were doing which they replied that they were fine just a bit shocked by the differences of these wild lands compared to Equestria. From some reason Drake really liked that description of them and has named this entire expanse ‘The Wildlands.’ After making his proclamation Drake directed Flim and Flam over to the fire I made for myself and went hunting. After Flim and Flam settled in I went in search of food as well. There wasn’t much in the way of plant foods which I instead to give them to Flim and Flam unless I couldn’t find anything else for myself. By pure chance I stumbled upon a den of some sorts. I decided to try a trick Drake had discussed which involved sending a bunch of smoke into it. Shortly thereafter my dinner came fleeing out and was promptly consumed.
After dinner I went back to our camp with some of the berries and tubers I had found in hand. I gave them to Flim, since Flam had already fallen asleep, and spent some time talking to him. While I still don’t like or trust these guys, I have to admit they aren’t all bad. Drake came back about an hour later with what looked like half a boar and said that he would take first watch. Flam would have second, and me and Flim would share third. Flim asked why Flam had it alone and Drake said it was because he was asleep now and if anything happened it was the watches job to wake everyone rather than get in a fight. Flim still seemed unsure, but Drake reassured him it would be alright.
So now I am going to bed while Drake promised I could sleep as we flew I don’t want to be asleep and miss something new and exciting in this unexplored land after all who knows what we will find.
Today was our first day fully outside of Equestria. When I saw the sunrise it was so normal, and yet so alien. Shortly after it rose Drake got up although he walked with something of a limp and seemed sore as he stretched before walking off. After we had all had some breakfast, made up of last night’s leftovers, we heading out.
Things were going pretty uneventfully until we exited the far side of the gap and were attacked by these strange beasts. They had arms with wings growing out of them, talons for feet and looked as if they would walk upright; their faces were flat, they lacked any feathers on their heads or front torso which was instead covered by what seemed to be animal skins. Most of them also had twin bulges covered by the skins.
As he tried to fight them off I fell off Drake. He tried to catch me, but the beasts blocked him and started to attack his wings forcing him on the defensive. I thought I was dead, a goner, going to hit the ground and become a stain. I had stabilized my fall but without wings what could I do beside become uncomfortably intimate with the ground.
Much to my surprise that is not what happened. Instead of meeting my end I suddenly stopped falling and starting going sideways, at first I was afraid that one of the beasts attacking us had caught me, but instead it was a Griffin, this might not seem like much improvement, but then I saw a bunch of Griffins wearing armor and armed with lances, bow, even a few swords forcing the beasts off Drake. The one who caught me introduced himself as Hyde McFarweather, and flew me back to Drake. By the time we got back to him the beasts had been driven off and he was talking to their leader. Drake was asking questions about the beasts and Griffins, and the Griffin leader was asking about why two dragons were on their own instead of with the migration, and didn’t already know the answer to Drake’s questions. As things seemed to be going nowhere fast Drake who looked to be bleeding from puncture wounds to his wings said “Look hovering here arguing is just going to make us targets if those.. you called them harpies right,” receiving a nod from the leader he continued, Those harpies come back so why don’t we go somewhere safe, surely you have someplace like that around here and we can sit down and talk while we wait for my ground bound friends to join us.” Their leader, Swiftwing McFarweather, as she introduced herself, agreed and even sent a pair of Griffins, Hyde and his brother Jekyll to escort Flim and Flam to the camp after Drake told her about where he thought they were.
They guided us to a camp on the ground at the edge of the mountains that was filled with griffins. From my vantage point I could see fifty or so out in the open. Flim and Flam showed up soon after we had landed. Drake filled them in and told us to explore and learn what we could about the camp and the Griffins while he meet with their leaders
While Drake met with the Ealge-eye who was the leader of the camp and Swiftwing’s mate the rest of us spent the day with the first civilized life we had met out here. Hyde and Jekyll decided it was their job to show us around the camp, I can’t believe those two are brothers, different as they are, but we had a fun time. They showed us all sorts of sights. My favorite was their blacksmith, it was so simple but so efficient, the Griffin in charge was huge, but much to our surprise kind and friendly. Jekyll and Hyde also showed us how they put up the tents and explained how they breakdown, move and setup the camp.
The last thing they showed us was the their trading post, a fairly large tent that anygriffin can use to sell their wares or find something they might need, it might not seem necessary but he said they trade with other groups out here from time to time and it get really busy then. The salesponies that they are Flim and Flam fell in love with this place and are still busy selling what they have and busying things they think they will need out here. Night is falling now and I am going to call this entry done, if the Wildlands are going to be like this every day I definitely have to get stronger.
There is one other thing I want to mention that didn’t really fit in with the rest, as we were walking around today I noticed that I am not that much smaller than Flim and Flam now, maybe a head and a half. Also my shoulders have been itching since this afternoon think there is something under the skin. My claws also seem sharper and I’m not sure but I think my sight and hearing are improving too.
Night fell on the Wildlands and Drake was in the center of the Griffin camp for the McFarweather Family. Interesting lot Griffins, their society is seemingly feudal and based around blood lines. The most basic unit is a pride, the extended family of an individual Griffin. The next layer is the Family which is all the extended families from a given ancestor. The various Families make up Clans, which in turn make up the Great Houses, each of which is vying to be the Head House, the leader of the Griffin people seated in there only permanent settlement High Wind Eerie a mountain top fortress located on a lone mountain that is allegedly the birthplace of the Griffin race. These days most Griffins are nomadic, but they have legends that tell of a time when they were settled and a major force in a now dead empire. This was what had intrigued Drake the most, what was the empire, had it existed or was it a myth. When he asked about it he learned that it had indeed existed, a great empire based on order and lead by the minotaurs and encompassing all races of the time, its ruins still dotting the landscape to this very day.
When Drake asked Eagle-eye how it fell he could tell him nothing. When Drake asked the family’s record keeper, Muninn who had been there in the meeting tent, she could only tell him that is was a time of cataclysm which cast down the mighty and gave rise to new enemies such as the harpies that had attacked him earlier that day, and were continually on the hunt for any Griffin they could find. For his part Drake had told his story as best he could without giving away his origins, but had divulged the training he had planned for himself and Spike. While all this had been occurring some of the McFarweather’s doctors had been bandaging Drakes wings were the harpies had drawn blood. As Drake was pondering fallen empire in the twilight of the day Spike and Flam joined him in the center of the camp, Flim absent because he was still trying to trade with the Griffins.
“Well gentlemen, what do you think,” Drake asked after sharing with them his findings and hearing their tale in return.
“Well the ruins could tell us what happened, and why things are how they are,” Spike replied the opportunity to discover something new tugging at him. Drake looked the young dragon over and noticed that he had started to grow, already much bigger and likely strong than when they had first met.
“If we do go into these ruins I am willing to bet they will hold many treasures, after all these Griffins seem to believe them cursed, and perhaps with good reason” Flam spoke feeling comfortable in the camp, but worried what would happen once they left, and what other monsters might be out there.
“What we need is a place we can base ourselves out of, a spot that will allow us to train and as we get stronger we can then go into these different ruins and learn both the secrets they hold and what our weaknesses still are. I can tell you right now that the fight with the hydra left me hurting even if it didn’t draw much blood, and I was having no effect on the harpies while they were having a field day with me. Plus, Spike With you unable to fly at the moment carrying you is too big a risk to continue doing. That said I think we can probably find a ruin and secure a part of it then train in the plains outside it.”
“Do you really think we can take one as we are now,” Flam asked. “you already pointed out that the last two encounters with non-friendlies were less than a walk in the park.”
“Yeah given what the harpies did to your wings maybe we should just stay with these Griffins for a while,” Spike said while pointing to Drake’s bandages. “They can teach us about how to survive out here.”
“Maybe, there are still some questions I have for them and a few days with them couldn’t hurt.”
As the trio continued discussing what they should do shouts began to sounds throughout the camp, shouts calling for bodies and weapons to repel an attack. The source was not named but everyone in the camp was rushing to the plains side of the camp, so not one to be left out of things Drake joined the flow with Spike and Flam in tow picking up Flim along the way.
At the edge of the camp every Griffin that could carry arms was there arranged for battle in what Drake thought looked an awful lot like the Greek hoplite formation. But it was what was across from them that took Drake by surprise and even left Spike stunned as well.
“Are those Diamond Dogs,” Drake asked Spike as we looked at what must have been over one hundred of the twisted hounds many in makeshift armor with crude weapons or nets.
“Yeah, but why are they attacking these Griffins, it’s not like they have any gems.”
“Do you suppose they want to enslave them?”
Before Spike could reply a scarred Diamond Dog bigger and seemingly brighter than the rest spoke out, “You Griffins are ours now. Put down your arms and serve us. Resist and you will die and be our food.”
Swiftwing answered for the Griffins in an instant, “No Griffin will ever serve any of the twisted.” With that reply a wave of arrow flew from the griffin lines and fell amongst the Diamond Dog. A number of pained yelps came out, but not enough to realistically impact the course of the fight. The Diamond Dog alpha let out ferocious howl and charged at the Griffins his soldiers following on his heels.
From his point behind the Griffin lines Drake could see only one outcome. ‘They are going to be beaten. If they take to the air the Diamond Dogs get into the camp and capture or butcher everyone there, but on the ground they are outnumbered at least three to one in this fight. Got to help them, Swiftwing called them twisted, if for no other reason they have to live so I can find out what that means, maybe it relates to how the empire fell.’
“Guys,” Drake began turning to his companions, “We have to help. Flim, Flam you two do whatever you can even if that is just plugging holes with the SSCS 6000, or moving hurt Griffins back away from the front lines. Spike I want you to add your strength to any point in the Griffin lines that is breaking, you fought these guys before, but this time you have to make sure they don’t get up. I’m going to try getting into the D-Dog horde and reduce the pressure they can put on the Griffin. All right team, break.” Drake clapped and took off leaving the unicorns and Spike stunned. Flim and Flam quickly recovered and began doing as Drake asked by levitating injured Griffins out of the fray and moving materials around to build a wall the Griffins could fall back along and use to funnel the Diamond dogs.
Spike stayed still a mental war being raged in his head equally as fierce as the one going on around him. ‘I can’t kill them. I mean sure I have killed, but only for food, things that can’t talk, but Diamond Dogs can talk, they have a society. Ok it may be a somewhat evil society, and it sounded like they are here to enslave the Griffins, but kill them. I can fight them, I have done that before, hurt them maybe, but take their life, that’s just too much to ask.’
As Spike argued with himself Drake landed in the middle of the Diamond Dogs and began to fight. Initial things went well for him with several of the mongrel dying at his claws, but they soon reacted and surrounded him with speardogs. Any time Drake would try to attack they would back up where he was attacking and come forward from behind him forcing him to react and dodge. Oh and the number going after him as increasing.
‘Oh Shit! I didn’t think this through very well did I,” Drake thought as he was quickly finding himself surrounded and unable to do anything. ‘Time to change location.’ Drake jumped up and tried to fly to somewhere else on the battle field, but his wings damaged from the fight with the harpies, and carrying unnoticed damage from the fight with the hydra decided “ah nope” and sent a wave of pain through Drakes body causing him to crash into the ground where he was quickly surrounded again and forced into fighting just to stay alive.
Along the Griffin line things were going less than swimmingly, despite their use of a shield wall they had already lost close to a third of their force, and while the dead bodies of Diamond dogs covering the ground lost were encouraging they still outnumbered the quickly tiring Griffins who were not without losses of their own. Flim and Flam had parked the SSCS 6000 on the Griffin left flank and were busy throwing Diamond Dogs back from it keeping that part of the line secure despite the sense of fatigue they were beginning to feel. Near Spike the Griffins still were moving back and he was standing still.
Spike twisted towards and away from the battle to conflicted about what to do in the fight to join, suddenly in the midst of his mental battle a Griffin moving back bumped into him, tripped, and fell down creating a hole in the line. Spike turned towards the disturbance and came face to face with a Diamond Dog who jumped through the hole and tackled him before the Griffins could react. Spike tried to force the mutt off him, but it was going for the kill. The mongrel having lost his weapon elected to punch Spike with his armored paws. Spike blocked as best he could but each blow drew blood from somewhere.
“Help! Drake, someone, anyone help.” Spike called between blows but no help came, then as he looked into the eyes of the dog on top him, its eyes filled with greed and desire something snapped, the battle in his mind ended overridden by his survival instincts. As the fist drew back yet again, Spike inhaled. As it came down Spike exhaled and a stream of flames shot out his mouth very different from his normal green fire. Instead flames of blue and white covered the Diamond Dogs face, slipping into its drooling mouth, igniting fur and spreading across the body and down its throat. The dog rolled off Spike trying anything to extinguish the fire but in a few moments the fire proved too much and it was still.
Spike stood slowly blood dripping from his face, his mind reeling with what he had just done. Had anyone seen him they would have noticed a strange look in his eyes. Nearby he heard Drake roar, not in victory or anger, but in pain.
‘Help Drake, protect the Griffins,’ a part of Spike said, ‘I have the power, I’ve killed once now, what is another, or another after that. I can protect them, the Diamond Dogs can’t block my flames. I can burn them.’
Something in him hesitated though, ‘I just took the life of a thinking creature, I am a monster, what would Rarity think, what would Twilight think. I have to leave, go somewhere that I can’t hurt anyone.’
‘Protect the Griffins!’
Spike did the one thing that made sense he threw himself into the fight, help or flee, protector or monster, the only way out of this was through the Diamond Dogs, and so through them he would go. His mind shutting down Spike ran on instinct alone. He leapt over the Griffins in front of him and began attacking the Diamond Dogs, his claws slashed, his jaws snapped, and anytime they tried to surround him Spike’s flames burned a path.
Pain that was all Drake felt, cuts marred his wings and snout, a stab wound in his breast burned. Still he fought, feeding on the pain lest he falter now. ‘I was supposed to be powerful, immortal, capable of changing the world, and here I am being beaten by a bunch of strays.’ Drake swept his tail, forcing the dogs back and preventing them from climbing onto his back, by sheer luck he hit one slicing it in half. ‘If only I could breathe fire or something, then I could hit with that even though I can’t reach them.
Suddenly he saw a flash of flames in his vision. ‘Looks like Spike finally joined the fray, but what is he doing away from the Griffin lines. The dogs chose the next moment to rush forward from all sides Drake swept out with his good arm, swung his tail, and darted his head in behind his arm forcing the Diamond Dogs to fall back. Using this next reprieve from the fighting Drake noticed that the Diamond Dog numbers had shunk with a thinning force on the Griffin lines, a group focused on him, and now a group focusing on Spike. The Griffins may have finally taken the upper hand in their battle thanks to Spike and Swiftwing’s slaying the alpha if Drake’s eye did not deceive him.
Across from Drake Spike was now absorbed in his own fight, but the dogs weren’t going to lose to him, they had the bigger Dragon surrounded grounded, all they had to do was herd this one there and they could get them both. So they slowly herded Spike towards Drake doing their best to avoid losing any more of their comrades with only mild success.
Drake looked up again sometime later and noticed what was going on. He saw that while the Griffins were in the final phase of their fight and would probably win they would be too tired to help him and Spike. Then he saw for the first time just how wild Spike looked and how he was fighting.
‘Something is wrong,’ Drake thought, ‘Something is wrong and he needs help, this has to end now.’ Drake looked at the Dogs around him, they had stopped attacking and seemed to be waiting for something. ‘Alright it is now or never, I need to breath fire, break out of the circle and get over to Spike, then I need to get us into the camp, hopeful the dogs will give up. If they follow us,’ Drake shrugged softly, ‘well here’s hoping they won’t.
Drake began to inhale concentrating on everything Spike had taught him, focusing on the power inside himself, trying to find it. Once his lungs filled Drake picked his target, a Diamond Dog with the heaviest armor of those around him, just then Drake felt it the power Spike had described, more than once, in fact those descriptions had become quite frustrated the last time they tried this, and he exhaled, sending his power out with his breath. Drake watched expecting a stream of flames to roast the dog alive. Instead a streak of lightning came out slamming into the first dog then arcing from it to those closest to it killing, burning flesh, and stopping hearts.
Drake blinked, the dogs surrounding him blinked, Flam and Flim blinked, all the Griffins not so engaged that they could only see the enemy in front of them blinked. Then Drake laughed, a deep, happy, crazy, on the verge of menacing laugh. “Not what I was expect, but certainly has potential.” Then looking to the Dogs still around him he asked, “Whose next?”
Rather than reply to his question they fled, running away then diving into the ground presumably into the tunnels that had brought them to the Griffin camp in the first place. Drake began to make his way to Spike a short distance away, but his injuries slowed him. Luckily the Dogs noticed he was coming and shifted some of their number to face him having missed his light show. Drake inhaled and reaching into himself, it was easier this time, and sent another bolt out knocking a pair of dogs down. The rest noticed that they were the only ones still on the field, the others having either fled after Drakes first lighting blasted or died at the talons of the Griffins. Then they too fled leaving an angry, confused young dragon on the field.
Spike spun around, the Diamond Dogs have mysteriously run away, then he saw Drake standing in front of him, bloodied and injured. Spike slowly calmed down and took stock of his surrounding as his mind began to work once again, he noticed the bodies and tasted blood. Slowly he looked at his claws and found them covered in it. As he looked at the bodies, and at his own form realization hit him dropping Spike to his knees. Spike began crying. “What have I done, I killed so many of them. I took the life of intelligent beings. What kind of monster am I? What have I done? Over and over Spike repeated those same questions as tears mingle with the blood on his face.
As Spike knelt there crying Drake limped up to him, when Drake got next to him Spike turned and asked, “Am I a monster, are you one, is that what you are going to make me into.”
“No Spike,” Drake said softly, “A monster is something that will enslave others, cause them harm and pain for its own benefit. What I see in front of me is a hero a protector, if only a young one still learning.’
“How,” Spike choked through his tear, “how can I be a hero after killing so many.”
“Look at the Griffins over there Spike, think of the families that will remain together, thing of the children that will be free come morning, free of chains and slavery. The parents whose lives you likely saved by fighting as you did.”
Spike tried to choke back his tear, tried to respond, but he couldn’t as the tear kept following he grasp onto Drakes leg, Drake held Spike close there in the midst of the battlefield until he had cried himself to sleep. Then Drake lifted him up and began limping towards the camp. Flim, Flam, and a number of Griffins came forth when they saw him stand and escorted the pair into the camp. Once Spike had been taken to be treated with the injured Griffins Drake flopped to the ground just inside the camp, giving in the fatigue and blood loss of the battle.
Author's Note: One day in the Wildlands and already everybody get beat up, and what are the impacts of the battle, did anyone we've met kick the bucket, why were Spike's shoulder's itching?
Also I am going to be unable to work on this for a while because the semester is ending and exams are going to my full focus, but then it is Christmas break and I intend to get tons done. Thanks to everyone who has favorited this, and as always feedback is welcome, you never know how it might improve the story.
Chapter 10: Dawn
“I never worry about action, but only about inaction”
After I wrote my entry last night the camp was attacked by Diamond Dogs. The Griffins got ready to fight and Drake decided we were going to help them. He gave me, Flim and Flam order for the fight then jumped in himself.
This morning I woke up today in the medical tent. I had some bandages wrapped around me, and my shoulders felt really funny, I was going to take them off but the Griffin doctor, Advallan, told me to leave them on. Apparently I got hurt really bad last night although I don’t remember much I was attacked by a Diamond Dog then I was crying in front of Drake.
As I was leaving the tent I ran into Jekyll, he was hurt bad and missing a wing. He said he fell down during the fight but just as the dogs were going to kill him Hyde just in the way. He killed one, but another ran him through. When I heard this I couldn’t believe it, there was no way Hyde was dead, not after I just met him.
I stumbled out of the tent and into Flim and Flam. Flam had a leg in a sling, and Flim had the right side of his face bandaged up. They brought me with them for lunch. I aks how they were coping with the battle, but the answer I got was really vague. I was about to ask them if they knew what happened to Hyde then a fledging, probably the same age as the CMC showed up saying Drake was awake and wanted to see us. When we arrived he was talking to Swiftwing and Eagle-eye. They seemed to be talking quite animatedly, well the Griffins were, and Drake was laying there more bandages on him than scales showing. In the end they seemed to calm down some
As they were leaving they told us that services were being held for the dead when the sun touched the horizon and asked us to attend. Afterwards they went off to do whatever needed doing. We went and talked to Drake, he told us that we were going to be staying with the Griffins, but that because of the attack we were moving into a ruin that the Griffins said didn’t have any of the Fallen in it. We all asked what the Fallen were, but Drake said now wasn’t the time for that. Instead he asked to speak to Flim and Flam privately. I guess he wanted to talk to them about if they still wanted to stay with us, or maybe their thoughts on the battle.
After he finished talking to them Flim and Flam left to take care of the SSCS 6000 which had suffered some damage in the battle and told me Drake wanted to see me. I walked up and he asked if I was okay. I told him I was but he didn’t seem to buy it. Rather than press the issue he asked me to take down a letter for him. I had to find some parchment and ink, but Drake didn’t seem to mind the wait.
It was a letter for Luna that asked about wishing stars and had a cryptic warning as a P.S. I’m not sure what it was about or even why he wanted to send it. Afterwards he told me to do whatever I want.
I looked for Hyde for a while; I just can’t accept that he is gone, before sitting down to write this. The sun is almost to the horizon now so I am going to go to the service, hopefully I will see Hyde there and get this straightened out.
I went to the services and found Hyde; he was among the dead along with ten others. All of them set on a pyre of wood and grasses their most prized possessions resting around them. I couldn’t believe it, he had saved my life just yesterday and we became friends so quickly what kind of world is it where a friend can disappear as quickly as he comes. Someone can come into your life then disappear as soon as you turn around. I asked around about the battle and found out what had happened. From what I pieced together I stood where Drake left me going around in circles not fighting. Then a Diamond Dog got through and jumped me, after that I went crazy and burned a path through them.
The one thing that stands out to me is not that I went crazy against the dogs, I can believe that, after all I went mad in Ponyville once. It is that my hesitation may be the reason why Hyde is gone, I didn’t do anything, I didn’t attempt to protect anyone, if this had happened back home what would have become of my friends, would it be their funeral instead. I will never hesitate ever again. I would rather regret an action than inaction at least that way I will never have to wonder if someone is gone because I didn’t act. I think I need to write a letter of my own.
That morning Drake’s body rested wrapped in bandages at the entrance to Griffin camp. His mind however was elsewhere, floating in an empty space. It was lit, yet dark, drab and yet vibrant. ‘The hell I am,’ thought Drake attempting to look around but seeing nothing, so he turned his eyes on himself. What he saw surprised him.
“I’m human again, how did that happen,” Drake said stunned out.
“You are that way because this is how you still think of yourself,” A feminine voice called out.
“Who are you, where are you,” Drake yelled spinning around in the empty space. “Show yourself!”
There was a flash of light and suddenly the world resolved itself around Drake. He found himself dressed in a black business suit with a blue shirt standing next to a window in a skyscraper overlooking a city devoid of life.
“Welcome would you like a drink,” the voice said from behind him. Drake turned to find a young woman standing at a conference table with a pitcher of water and two glasses in her hands, one stretched out towards him.
“Thank you, that sounds wonderful,” Drake responded walking towards the woman and taking the glass. “If you don’t mind my asking just who are you and where are we?”
“It hurts that you don’t remember me, but to answer your second question first; we are in limbo, on a plane that exists purely for the two of us, and just while we are here,” The woman said before pausing to take a drink. “To answer your first, I am the one who sent you to Equestria, the one who made you a dragon, the one who granted your wish.”
Drake shook his head, as he swallowed his own sip. “That is impossible, the one that sent me here was a star, not a pretty lady such as yourself, and spoke with a voice very different from your.”
“At that time I spoke with the voice of the Convention, and I appear in this form because it is one that you can converse with easily,” the woman replied.
“So why are we here miss….. What was your name?”
“My name is beyond your understanding or comprehension but you way call me Kallyn. The reason we are here is because you are in a dangerous position. You nearly died last night, seems like a terrible way to waste your wish, you haven’t even been there for two months.”
“Yeah well I didn’t exactly plan to find myself in the middle of a battle so early on.” Drake said sitting on the table. “So what are you going to do about this dangerous position I am in, the better question is why do you care?”
“I cannot tell you why I care but know this I did not choose this plane without purpose. Change is in the wind, change started by four of my own and you are going to handle it.”
“Wait what was that, change started by four wishing stars. Change you want me to handle,” Drake was on the verge of spewing his water. “I am just some pawn in a game?”
“No! No, you are far from a pawn, your choices are your own and I am betting you will do the right thing, so I am going to tell you something. I will give you the name of a place where you can go and be safe, train, and get stronger. This place will not be given to you freely, but if you can reach its heart, you will be relatively safe.” Kallyn looked at Drake, seriousness darkener her features, and yet a hint of pleading there as well.
“I don’t know what it is that worries you so, and I don’t intend to be a pawn, but you are offering me a place to go and train, I take it if I can bring others with me?”
“Of course, there wouldn’t be any point if you were to go alone,” Kallyn replied her features returning to what one might consider normal. “Now when you awake ask the leaders of the Griffins you are with if there are any ruins without Ogres, you will learn more of them in times to come. It is there in a place known as Forum that you will find answers.”
“So ruin without Ogres, wait there are Ogres in this world?”
“Now is not the time to be answering your questions, maybe some other day, for now you have to wake up.” Kallyn placed a finger on Drake’s forehead and pushed him backwards. An instant later Drake woke up back in Equestria. Upon waking he was met by three Griffins two of who rushed away, and one who asked if he needed anything. Drake asked to see Swiftwing and Eagle-eye only to learn that someone had already gone to get them. He also asked to see his friends. The Griffin with him took off rounding up several fledglings and sending them off to find Spike, Flim and Flam.
Not long afterwards the husband and wife leaders of the Griffin arrived to speak with him.
“Thank you Drake for what you did last night without your help we would be gone,” Eagle-eye said. “Are you feeling alright, you were badly injured and our doctor did their best to dress your wounds but….”
“I am fine, thank you. I have something to ask you both do you know of a ruin without Ogres, a place called Forum?”
“There is a place without Fallen waking its crumbling form, but what inhabits it is no less dangerous. I do not know its name but it may be this Forum you seek,” Swiftwing responded. “But I do wonder for one who knows so little about this place how do you know about Ogres or the names of ruins?”
“Would you believe it came to me in a dream?” Drake asked, waving a claw in circles before halting it suddenly. “Wait, that is the second time I have heard you use to term Fallen, but you never told me anything about any Fallen yesterday afternoon.”
“The Fallen are a curse, set upon each race that served the Empire, twisted perversion of the ones they once were formed during its fall,” Eagle-eye answered. “The shame of the Griffins is the Harpies, of the Minotaurs the Ogres. Diamond Dogs come from a race which is forgotten, and the shape shifters are what became of ponies. These are the Fallen, long ago they tormented us and the others relentlessly, but over time they became less aggressive however, in the past several months that is changing, something has happened and they are becoming as legends say they once were.”
Drake took a moment to digest this information and filed it away for further consideration before returning his attention to Eagle-eye and Swiftwing. “Can you take me to the ruin I asked about? Surely if you can it would be safer for all of us to travel together.”
“We could show you, but we will not go with you, not to that place,” Eagle-eye replied waving his arms across one another.
“Ogres infest all ruins but that one, that is because something more powerful than Ogres is there, something that attacks everything which has ever entered it.” Swiftwing began to hover as she said this. “I have been there once long ago, two scout went in, one came out, missing a wing, and leg spouting nonsense about stone and metal attacking him.” She landed back on the ground. “Death awaits those who go there, I don’t care what visions a pain induced dream may have given you.”
Drake looked at the two and took a moment to form his reply. “I am going to that ruin and I am going to tame it. I will be taking my friends with me, and I am offering you a chance to join up with me. Consider this the world is changing you said it yourself. Last night’s attack may just be the first of many; come with me to the outskirts of the ruin, from there if I can’t find a way to make it safe for you to stay then you can go on without me.
“No absolutely not,” Eagle-eye said emphatically.
“How many died last night, how many more will if something has changed the way the winds blows if you’ll pardon the analogy,” Drake asked. Why he was so incessant on this he wasn’t sure but he felt that it was in everyone’s interest to do as he had been advised.
“Swiftwing, maybe, what would be the harm,” Eagle-eye said concern for peoples survival being greater than his fear.
“Tell you what, go and think about it. In the morning, if I am good enough to move, you can give me your answer, but please consider it.” When Drake finished speaking the pair left sending Spike, Flam and Flim over to him as they did so.
Elsewhere at a meeting of the Convention of Entities Beyond the Comprehension of Corporeal Beings. A heated meeting was occurring.
“What have you done,” a voice boomed from amongst the gathered. “Our laws forbid interaction except when they see us falling in the sky and make a wish. This restriction was set upon us at the founding of time and you have ignored it.”
“I did what needed doing,” a familiar female voice replied. “Is it so different from the four who freed her not so long ago.”
“That was in response to a wish, four wishes for the same thing, made at the same time.”
“And yet our involvement is instantaneous, why wait one thousand year to fulfill them.”
“The forces at work were as great as our own if not greater. They were meant to seal an evil force more powerful than any other immortal at the time. Their power was greater than we imagined.”
“And now as this world stands to suffer as it did so long. I will not let that happen while I have a mean to prevent it, not given the destruction that happened before.”
“That is not for you to decide. We must obey the rules of the Convention, the rules given to us at creation; no one world is worth their violation. For your actions you must be punished.”
Disappointment emanated throughout those gathered never before had punishment been issued, never had it been need.
“Fine, do to me what must be done, if he does what I know he will then it will be worth it.”
“You will be silenced,” the booming voice stated. “Until such a time as your actions are of no consequence you shall be without interaction, trapped to forever watch and never speak.”
A moment later the Convention dispersed each to continue their mission as set forth at creation, all but Kallyn. Kallyn stood trapped in the skyscraper a screen on the wall displaying an injured blue dragon resting in an evening sun.
It was early afternoon in Canterlot and Luna had just woken up after going to bed that morning. As she went about donning her royal regalia a cloud of smoke startling her before resolving into a rolled up bit of parchment. Luna poked it with her hoof once, then twice before grasping it in her telekinetic grip and unrolling it. What she found both pleasantly surprise and worried her. She was pleasantly surprised she had received a letter but worried by its contents.
What do you know of the wishing stars. I have recently had several encounters with one and they have been quite
odd. We will be meeting someday before too long and I hope to talk to you then.
P.S. Be watchful, danger can come from anywhere, and in any form.
Luna took the letter and ran from her room heading to find her sister intent on discussing events from long ago which might yet have meaning.
That evening in Ponyville Twilight was busy cleaning up the library after Rainbow had had her meeting to inform the towns Pegasi that they had been selected to provide water to Cloudsdale. It had been an interesting experience for Twilight who operated the film. While it was simplistic in its presentation weather production was something she was not well versed on so any information was new and interesting to her. Regardless after the Pegasi had left Twilight was cleaning when she too was met by a waft of smoke which resolved into a letter.
Twilight froze, she hadn’t received anything from Spike in over a week, she begun to give up hope. After the shock wore off she snapped in open and began reading over. Her excitement quickly waned, she read it again and tears began to form as she brought her hoof to her lips.
“Oh Spike, what are you going through out there? Please be okay.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Chapter 11: Flight
“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth/And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;”
From “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Wings! I have wings. Flight is within my grasp. I have wings. They’re why my shoulders were itching and hurting over the past couple of days. They woke me up this morning; my whole back was hurting like something was digging into it. The pain was really bad it had me in tears at one point, but then it passed and was replaced by a duller pain as if something was being pressed against my spine. I tried to tear off the bandage but it was tougher than it looked, so I went back to the medical tent to have Dr. Advallan remove it. He cut it away and then got really still before clearing his throat and telling me I had wings.
I didn’t believe him at first. How could I have wings, I didn’t have them yesterday, but he set up so mirrors and showed them to me. I jumped for joy and went running right out; I may have woken up the whole camp I was cheering so loud. Sure I had always wanted to fly, but only in the past week or so has it become a burning wish, hell I about need to fly. Need, funny that word should pop up as I am writing this. Drake is still recovering aka sleeping so I haven’t talked to him about it, then again he might not be able to answer that one. Now that I am thinking about it Need is probably why I have these wings. I can’t really control them yet, maybe they aren’t fully developed yet but soon I will need some flying lessons. Drake or one of the Griffins should be able to teach me. Whelp it is still early in the day and the camp is busy with activity so I am going to see if there is anything I can do to help.
Today has been a fury of activity, but to understand why that is I need to tell you a bit more about what happened after yesterday’s entry.
Drake woke up sometime around noon and must have been feeling much better because he found me and together we went looking for the Cider Twins as we have taken to calling them. As we looked for them I showed Drake my new wings. He seemed pretty happy, even a little bit excited about them. I still can’t use them any, although I am begin to have some feeling in them today. Drake mentioned that this might be something to write home about, or maybe I should challenge Rainbow to a race for when I get back with the condition that she can’t use her wings. After that suggestion he came awfully close to maniacal laughter; to say Drake has a slightly twisted sense of humor would be a bit of an understatement. Regardless his suggestion does have some merit to it, would be pretty funny to see her reaction.
Anyway we found Flim and Flam working on the SSCS 6000 which was looking worse for wear. Drake lay down near them and I sat down opposite him. He began telling us about this weird dream he had the other day and how he was trying to get the Griffins to not only lead us to this ruin but to join up with us. About the time he finished regaling us Eagle-eye and Swiftwing landed in the middle of us and turned to Drake. Drake asked if they had come with his answer.
Eagle-eye and Swiftwing glanced at one another and I am pretty sure that I saw her give him slight nod before Eagle-eye looked back and Drake and said, “Despite some reservations we have decided that the McFarweathers will accompany you to the ruin you asked about, but if we are going to guide you there we need you to promise that you will do everything in your power to keep our Family safe.”
Drake said nothing for a moment, then he spoke in a tone I had never heard him use before, it sounded somewhere along the lines of respectfully and sincere but with other thing mixed in I am not sure about. Using this tone Drake said, “You have my word on all that I am and will do my utmost to ensure that every single Griffin now alive in this camp survives and prove to you that this alliance between us will be to everyone’s benefit.”
Eagle-eye looked a little shocked by what Drake had said, I don’t know why I mean heck he had thrown himself into a battle and nearly died to save these guys already, but he nodded then took off saying he had much to do and little time to do it in. Swiftwing looked Drake over as if reevaluating her opinion of him before leaving as well. After that Drake told us to do whatever we needed to be ready to move then left. Flim and Flam went back to working on the SSCS 6000 I stayed and helped them for a little bit before going off to see if any of the Griffins needed help.
So that is what happened yesterday. Today the whole camp was broken down and every Griffin began to form up near the entrance. All the Griffins had a bundle with them some had several and a few even had carts resting next to them. Swiftwing and her warriors combed the skies with bows out and ready in cases something got in its mind to attack the McFarweathers. Off on the horizon I am pretty sure I saw a couple of Griffin scout keeping an eye on our intended route out of here. Drake and Eagle eye stood side by side at the front of the assemblage and once it seemed everyone had arrived spoke to the gathering.
“Friends. Family,” Eagle-eye began, “We are moving to investigate a ruin.” At those words shock ran through the crowd and several cried out the it was foolish, or forbidden. Drake silenced them with a roar allowing Eagle-eye to continue. “I am aware of the reputation of the ruins, but this one is not infested by Fallen, and our friend Drake, who fought alongside us risking death when he could have left us believes that it may be made safe. Safe from the Harpies and safe from the Diamond Dogs. I too am skeptical of this, but change is in the air. Harpies are becoming more aggressive and the Dogs are assembling into larger hosts than we have ever seen, so today we take a step to protect ourselves. If it proves a failure then we will know it is not an option. But if we are successful we may gain a valuable prize.”
Over the course of his speech the mood of the crowd shifted from nervous and angry to anxious and maybe even a little bit hopeful. “On my signal all who can fly will take off and travel as the vanguard to tonight’s campsite, the rest of us will follow on the ground and be watchful for anything that may be of use to us this next week.” Then with a wave of his arms the whole host moved roughly two hundred and fifty Griffin young and old lurched into motion. Those that could took to the skies and were joined by a squad of warriors before heading off to the west. The rest of us moved south out of the camp to get away from the mountains before we were to turn west and follow the fliers. Drake stayed on the ground and lead the way forward.
And that is when near disaster struck. As soon as we had left sight of the camp Drake disappeared in a cloud of dust. For several moments we heard nothing but sounds of lightning and thunder, Barks and yelps, claw and steel, then nothing. The dust cleared and we saw Drake at the bottom of a sink pit, the corpses of Diamond Dogs littering its floor and the entryway to several tunnels.
“Damn Dogs have been building these the whole time we’ve been in the village since that battle the other day I’ll bet,” said Drake as he began trying to climb out of the pit. The battle had added some new bruises and cuts to him and with the old they made it near impossible from him to scale the walls. Fortunately Flam and Flim lent their magic and helped pull him out. After that everyone was really careful about the path we took and guards were stationed not only along the perimeter of the column but within it as well. We didn’t hit anymore sink pit, but there were a couple cases of dogs popping up from underground only to be shot the moment it surfaced.
The sun was halfway past the horizon when we made it to the camp the vanguard had set up. The mood of the McFarweathers was subdued but at the same time I think they are hopeful as well. It is going to take a week to reach the ruin that Drake calls Forum so there is still time for something to go wrong, but I think that if we all work together it will be fine. Anyway Drake said we have been slacking on training, and also that it is finally time to start working on Greed so we will see what happens.
Twilight had had a busy day out at the exercise track. She had enjoyed it though not only did she get to help her friend but she had a chance to learn more about Pegusi in general. The only down side had been Fluttershy’s reaction, of course bringing Scootaloo along to help her in Spike’s place might not have helped things either. Looking back she realized that it had been a very bad decision, not only had Fluttershy had stage fright issues, Scootaloo’s reactions to each wing power number hadn’t helped. Regardless it was done and for now she and Rainbow Dash were out at a cozy little café grabbing dinner and discussing the Day’s results.
“Thanks for helping out Twi,” Rainbow said between bites of her lasagna filled with mushrooms, pepper, tomato sauce, eggplant and cheeses. “I knew that you would be the perfect person to help me with getting Ponyville’s Pegusi into shape.
“Glad to do it,” Twilight replied her grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup mostly untouched as she was spending most of her time talking. “I’m just happy that you trust me enough to help, I figured that you would go looking for somepony more athletic to help you.”
“I know all the athletic stuff what I needed was somepony with the book smarts to make sure that my training plan wasn’t too much for the rest of these ponies.” Rainbow paused to take of sip of her drink. “After all not everypony can keep up with my awesomeness.”
It was at that point in the meal that a letter appeared between the two friends. Twilight was surprised to get another so quickly after having gone so long without one, and Rainbow to who Twilight had shown the last one was worried something even worse had happened. Even more surprising for them both was when Twilight unrolled to letter and another fell out, this one addressed to Rainbow Dash. Passing it to her they both read the letter they had received.
“Hey, Twilight guess what, I have wings now, wings, I can fly, well not yet, but soon I will be in the sky and get to see what Rainbow finds so great about it. On that note don’t tell her I have wings, I am sure she will show you hers but you can’t let her know I have wings, tell anypony you want except her, and anypony you tell has to Pinkie Promise not to tell her.
On another note I still miss Hyde, but I talked to some people about it and while I didn’t understand what they said at first I do now. I am going to be fine it will just take some time. Take care and stay safe.
Twilight smiled at first then became more and more curious about what Spike meant right up until Rainbow shoved her letter in Twilights face. “Read this Twilight, Spike must be doing ok, heck he even has the guts to challenge me to a race when he comes home.”
Hey Rainbow I am going a lot out here and was talking to Drake when he mentioned I should test myself when I get home, so I challenge you to a race, you, me any course you want loser owes the win one task of their choosing. There is one condition though, just to be fair you can’t use your wings, same as your race against Applejack during the running of the leaves. If you accept then send a reply through Twilight.
“He is going down I don’t care what kind of changes he is going through is he is getting this kind of cocky I am going to have to knock him down a peg,” Rainbow continued to rant as realization grasped Twilight, Spike as setting Rainbow up. She wasn’t sure why he was doing this it seemed kinda mean, but then again maybe it was just to get a laugh. Of course if that was what he found funny maybe these changes wouldn’t be for the best. Before Twilight to go any farther down the rabbit hole Rainbow brought her back.
“Hey Equestria to Twilight, Equestria to Twilight did you hear me, tell Spike that he is going down next time you send him something.” Twilight assured Rainbow she would and then they resumed their meal, worry and elation both vying for Twilight’s attention.
Chapter 12: Forum
“If they do break through, run as if something very nasty were after you, because something very nasty will be after you” ~The Doctor
We have been traveling for two days now, the mountains of the border are beginning to recede beyond the horizon behind us and before us are with rolling hills covered with a tan grass and the occasional tree near creeks and streams. There haven’t been any attacks on the caravan since yesterday and everyone seemed a bit happier. The fledglings were playing around today instead of staying near their parents quiet and withdrawn. For our camp tonight we are on the top of a hill with a freshwater spring; nearby are some freshly scorched patches of earth from the training Drake and I were doing earlier.
This evening was our second attempt at tapping into the power of Greed. For now we are just attempting to induce mild growth then snap out of it. We both agreed to start with me since we knew I had done it before and he doubted we could stop him while there was a chance he could stop me before I grew too strong. Last night we got nowhere with it. Nothing happened so we just went on to other stuff after an hour or so. This evening however we had some success. I was able to tap into my Greed and grow as intended, but when he tried to get me to think of Ponyville and Rarity I went on a bit of a rampage looking for it and her. I wound up starting a fire which forced Drake to tackle me, and use me to start a back burn before he scolded me harshly enough that I snapped out of it. Most to these details are from what he told me happened. My memories of the event are pretty fuzzy although better than my memories of the day after my birthday when I was first and totally consumed by Greed. One detail that does stand out to me was that I was a bit bigger than Drake, even though I am normal only about three-quarters, maybe a bit more, the size of the Cider Twins.
Anyway after that we focused of other things like Drake’s literacy which is getting pretty good these days. The most surprising thing about that, a couple of Griffin saw what was going on and brought some of their own books over. To my surprise they use the same alphabet, and for the most part similar spellings as the ponies. Drake seemed intrigued by it and said something about it lending strength to the empire story he had been told. I guess that means that if we find a library in these ruins we will be able to read whatever they have there, but that is a worry for another day. Now it is time to grab some food and rest up, walking all day then training is exhausting.
We have arrived and are now sitting on the outskirts of the ruin. It is an impressive sight to be sure. It is set on and around a hill covering. A wall rings the ruin a short distance from the base of the hill although it is crumbling it is still an impressive fortification. The city goes up the hill and at the center above all else stands a large stone building with marble columns leading to an entryway that seems largely intact from here. It is creepy too, nothing is moving in the ruins, and the Griffins seem really nervous about being as close as we are to it. From what I’ve heard most of these ruins have some Ogres in them truly twisted creatures or so they claim, but exceeding lazy. That isn’t important right now, mostly because there aren’t any here. That in turn is why we are here, Drake is certain that if we can make its city a base of operations for whatever he has planned.
Speaking of Drake I think we have cracked the Greed control issue for him. It is not perfect but he gave me a list of twelve things to say: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. I don’t know why he picked these, he doesn’t exactly fit many of them, but we gave it a try this evening and it worked. Of course triggering his greed was kinda funny. We used books, that’s right books. Apparently Drake has a love of knowledge, kinda like a certain unicorn I know. Of course it shouldn’t be that surprising, now that he can read, even if it is at a foals level, he reads everything he can anytime he can.
My Greed control is coming along as well. One thing we had to do was come up with a way for others to snap us out of our greed. I won’t write down here how it works for me, but sufficient to say Drake is way too creative for his own good. Flim and Flam got a laugh out of it too since Drake insisted they know how to snap us out in case we ever both fell into the control of our Greed.
Tomorrow we are going into the ruin and making straight from the center structure. We are walking the whole way as well, just Drake and I against whatever might be in there, because I can’t fly yet. I can feel my wings, I can flap them, but I am not coordinated or strong enough to fly yet. So we are going to walk right up the main road and to top it off Drake want me in Greed mode, far enough that I am as big as him until we get to the center. Tomorrow will be interesting.
Morning came and with it storms blocking much of the suns light. As Drake and Spike prepared to enter the ruin rain poured down, lightning flashed and thunder crashed. The Griffins already nervous became fearful; nature itself seemed to be condemning their decision. Regardless of the weather Drake was determined to go forth, already he had waited nearly a week to reach this ruin and he had grown increasingly curious as to what was held within.
“Are you ready for this Spike,” Drake asked as he and Spike stood alone a short distance from what seemed to be the main gate to the city as the rain came down.
“Ready as I’ll ever be, but are you sure about this, what if I lose control or you can’t snap me out of it,” Spike replied still concerned about using Greed for this endeavor.
“Yes, if you can’t use it for this when there may well be something that can kill us inside, at least according to Swiftwing, then how will you be able to use it later?”
“Well I hope to be much better trained on it by then but here goes nothing.” Spike began to focus on his desires, what did he want, what was his hoard and such as that. Not but a short moment later Spike stood shoulder to shoulder with Drake equal in size and nearly equal in strength.
“Spike, do you remember our plan and our goal,” Drake asked for you see the more a dragon gives in to Greed the duller they tend to becoming and often forget many things aside from their base desires.
“Go center. Stay together. No get hurt,” Spike answered proving he retained enough sense to be an asset and not a liability.
“Then off we go.” With that they began their trek into the city. Passing through the gatehouse and into the ruin they found nothing but crumbling buildings and rusted metal, any wood or other less durable materials having long since vanished with the passing of time. Here and there plant life struggled to survive amongst the stone, but it was very sparse.
Even in the desolation there were sounds, rain hitting stone, thunder, and Drake was certain footsteps belonging to something else. He could not see it, the rain and dim sky reducing visibility but he though he saw something move from time to time within the ruins. ‘Might just be nerves, might be trouble,’ Drake thought as he continued moving inwards and up the main avenue keeping all his senses peeled just in case.
Beside Drake Spike plodded along the rain bugging him. Nowhere did he see gems, or other things his Greed fueled mind desired at that moment, yet his rational side held strong keeping him on task and preventing him from falling further. They had gotten far enough into the ruin that on a clear day they would have been visible on the side of the hill to people outside the ruin, even as far away as the Griffin camp, and on a clear day there was a chance that someone from the Griffin camp would see what was moving in the sides streets and alleyways and warn the pair perhaps with the scale Flim and Flam still carried. Alas the rain obscured any such views and left the dragons unaware of the threats gathering around them.
The city was theirs, theirs to protect and theirs to guard. At one time they had protected it for someone or from someone but they no longer remembered who, the enchantments that gave them life were old, and had been passed down onto new bodies as the old ones degraded beyond usefulness. Now intruders came into their city, and intruders must die. But these were dragons, and dragons required everyone. So they waited and followed as the dragons continued into the city towards the center. If they reached the library it would be too late fortunately the host had almost gathered, just a moment longer and all would be set right.
As they reached what Drake assumed to be the two-thirds point of their endeavor several hours after beginning the trek he noticed that there were indeed sounds in the ruin other than the rain, thunder and a pair of dragons. There were sounds of metal on metal, stone on stone and heavily weighted footsteps all around them.
“Spike, get ready to run for the center of the city, if we can get in there we should be able to defend ourselves better than out here,” Drake said to his companion hoping it got through to him.
“Why run, what wrong,” Spike asked he had not noticed anything aside from the annoying rain which continued to fall and the lack for gems and other things he desired.
“Something is trying to surround us, when they attack we run, fight only to keep your path open.”
“Okays,” Spike replied. Then from the shadows and through the rain they came. Lighting stuck at that same moment illuminating them. Easily nine feet tall if not more they were bipedal constructs of stone and rusted metal, they lacked a defined head but rather had a body a rounded rectangle, if any shape accurately describes it, wider at the top then the bottom. Two arms attached at the top and the two legs at the bottom. The arms ended not in hands but in weapons, clubs and maces and hammers, in some cases even swords and axes on those of rusted metal. The legs ended like trees trunks without the roots, simply large circles that still supported the whole weight of the constructs. Spike and Drake did not have long to marvel at these details and consider the skill it must have took to create them as the two dragons were busy running away.
Drake shot lighting, Spike belched flame, both swept with their tails and claws as they run through the city clearing the path before them and attempting the prevent the constructs from closing in to closely. Drake roared in pain as one jumped from an alleyway into his side, knocking him down and slamming its hammer-like arm into his gut. Drake swept at it with his claws, but it had moved up beyond their reach and was preparing to slam its hammer done onto his spine when Spike’s tail slammed into it sending the construct flying into a building allowing Drake to get up and continue on. It was in this fashion that the two of them made for the center of the ruin.
Hours had pasted since Drake and Spike entered the ruin and those in the camp had no way of knowing what had become of them. As the rain poured down Flam and Flim had taken refuge from the deluge with the Griffins in the McFarweather’s main meeting tent. With them they had Drake’s scale, keeping it nearby as a way to remain informed as to if he lived or not. While waiting they listened as the Griffins shared tales among themselves, a way to stave off fear, tales of great feats and lost homes. As Flim and Flam listened to the tales enjoying the peace they created there was a roar from the ruin. Everyone stopped and listened intently, another different roar a moment later, then the first again not long afterwards.
“And so they are beset by the monsters that claim this place and keep it theirs,” Swiftwing said. “Let us see if they can fare better than all others who have tried to investigate or claim it before them.” And so the McFarweathers listened while Flim and Flam stayed in contact with the scale, still feeling it direct them to Drake, reassuring them he lived.
His side throbbed, his tail was cut, and blood leaked from his claws where repeated blows to the constructs had not left him unscathed. Beside him Spike fared no better suffering many similar injuries. Drake’s lightning had proved more effective against the constructs seeming to interrupt whatever magic powered them but Spikes flames still did the job. At last the central structure was in sight, just a short distance away. Yelling at Spike to push it out Drake burst into a sprint digging deep to get out of the open. Spike followed a step behind hoping the threshold to the structure would deliver him from the pain he felt.
As they crossed into what seemed to be a courtyard or perhaps a plaza before the building the constructs seemed to back off. When they reached to entryway Drake noticed that the constructs had stopped pursing them having taken up posts surrounding the plaza but refuse to cross onto it, turning to Spike Drake decided it was time to have him return to normal, whatever was in the building Drake preferred a fully sensible if smaller Spike with him rather than the brute he had beside him now.
“Ok Spike time to snap out of it,” Drake said to see if Spike could break free of Greed on his own or if he would have to do it himself.
Spike heard Drake’s words and entered a mental battle with himself. His Greed side insisted that he didn’t need to give it up, the power it offered would allow him to gather riches, more than he could comprehend. If he gave in further he could overpower Drake and have anything he wanted. His rational side argued that the Greed had served its purpose and it was time to return to normal and that he needed to trust Drake so he would be able to keep training to return to Ponyville and his friends, that and he didn’t want Drake to put those images in his head.
Just as Drake was preparing to snap Spike out of it the dragon in question shrunk down to his new normal size and shook his head to chase away the dizziness the process had invoked. “Okay, all good let’s see what is in this place.”
“Very well shall we,” Drake said motioning towards the entryway before stepping off and crossing the threshold into the unknown yet again. Spike followed a moment later and was stunned. This building, this center of the city was a library, a massive library. Rows upon rows of books and scrolls turned into floors of books and scrolls as Spikes eye adjusted to the dark interior and let him look around better. Noticing that Drake had continued onwards into the library Spike jogged to catch up noticing that they seemed to be following the main aisle towards something he couldn’t see.
Drake could see what he was heading for, and it brought up more questions than it answered. At first he had merely been walking down the main aisle astounded that this building was a library, even more astounded that its contents seemed to be intact, but as he got further in he noticed that a what seemed to be the center of the library was a round desk, or perhaps an information center. What threw him for a loop was that in a chair facing the main door there was a body of a Minotaur gray with a massive beard flowing down its front. When Drake reached the desk Spike asked the question that was on both their minds.
“Is it alive?”
“Well only one way to find out I suppose,” Drake said pointing to a small bell and hammer sitting on the desk. Spike taking the hint went up and rang the bell. What happened next shocked them both to their very core.
“Welcome to the Grand Library of the Empire of Order, I am the Custodian how can I help you today,” said the body as it stood up and dusted itself off. Just then as Drake and Spike stood stunned; Spike burped up a letter which only added to the growing silence in the library.
Chapter 13: Wait. What?
“It’s funny. All you have to do is say something nobody understands and they’ll do practically anything you want them to.” J.D. Salinger
Drake and Spike just stood there stunned, the letter ignored as the Minotaur continued speaking. “Each of the four wings is dedicated to publications relating to one of Forum’s four colleges located just beyond their entrance. The main hall you entered through is the Arcane Wing, opposite it is the Mundane Wing, to your left in the Individual Wing, and to your right is the Social Wing. If you desire access to the restricted texts please present signed approval from one of the four deans….”
Tuning out the Minotaur, but being careful to not be heard, Drake leaned down to Spike and asked, “Does something about this guy seem a little off to you?”
“Let’s see, the fact that he was just sleeping in here with all those death machines made of living stone and metal, he is still alive despite it looking like there is nothing to eat or drink, he acts as if the city was booming and filled with people and this was just another day, or the fact that he looks old enough to be Celestia’s grandfather,” Spike deadpanned in reply.
“Seriously Spike look at his eyes, they seem dead. It is like his body is going through the motions, but his mind is locked away, or gone.” Spike took a closer look and saw what Drake was saying to be true. The Custodian’s eyes where dead, no gleam of life or emotion in them. Then he looked down at the bell hammer in his hand.
“Hey Drake, what if he is still asleep or something?” Spike asked, a plan beginning to form.
“What like sleepwalking? Maybe…” That was good enough for Spike, he started slamming the hammer into the bell as quickly as he could. The Custodian stopped speaking and fell back into his chair, where he began to shake violently. Spike dropped the hammer, shocked by the Custodian’s reaction while Drake moved behind the desk doing his best to keep the Custodian from hurting himself.
“Hey wake up! Snap out of it!” Drake continued trying to wake the Custodian but as everything he tried did nothing, he rapidly approached his wits end. Spike finally snapped out of his stupor and ran towards the exit. When Spike passed to the outside he saw that the constructs were still where they had been when they entered the building but where acting different as well. No longer were they teeming at the edge of the plaza as if stopped by a barrier, but rather they were just standing with some moving away to other parts of the city. Rather than ponder on them Spike focused on why he came outside, the rain. Looking around Spike saw a slight flaw in his plan.
‘Bucket, pail, cup, jug, anything,’ Spike thought as he looked around. When he failed to find anything to carry the water in he cupped his hands, catching as much water as they could hold then rushed back to Drake, being careful to spill as little as possible. When he reached them he threw the water onto the Custodian.
The Custodian stopped all movement. Drake looked back at Spike, shock showing on his face. Spike looked at Drake, “Did I kill him?” he gulped.
Before Drake could answer the Custodian awoke, much different now than he was before.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?” The Minotaur snapped as he shakily stood up. “Is the war finally over, did we finally beat that foul demon? Wait.” The Minotaur smelled the air, breathing it in deeply. “I can smell his taint in you. Has he sent you here to torment me more? Was binding me to this building not enough, now he sends dragons to burn it down around me? Well I challenge you to try! I am Epistaties, Lord High Enchanter of Forum and Caretaker of the Imperial Library! Discord may have sealed me here, but none shall destroy this knowledge!” Epistaties thundered, drawing himself up to his full height and taking a battle stance with legs bent, and arms raised as the air around him began to crackle. Epistaties waited for Drake and Spike’s next move fully expecting the worst.
Drake and Spike took one second to process Epistaties’ statement before throwing their hands up and trying to talk him down.
“Whoa man I don’t even know what war you are talking about,” Drake said as he backed away, hoping to seem less threatening.
“We don’t serve Discord, that jerk is sealed in stone at Canterlot Castle, just like he has been for the past several thousand years.” Spike said, careful to omit that he had recently gotten free before being resealed.
“There is no such place, do not attempt to lie to me!” Epistaties yelled at Spike. “And don’t you dare say you don’t know of the war--the war that is destroying the empire and all it stands for. The war which is twisting everyone into foul reflections of themselves,” Epistaties said, turning his anger to Drake.
“But Canterlot is a real place. It is where Princess Celestia lives, you have to know about her, right? She raises the sun and, until the recent return of Princess Luna, moon every day and night. She rules Equestria and has ever since she and Princess Luna used the Elements of Harmony to seal Discord away,” Spike said, finding it hard to believe there was someone who had never heard of them.
“LIES! Lies by chaos to trick me that you may avoid my wrath!” Epistaties cried, fear being to creep into his mind that what they said was true. Fear that someone had defeated Discord, but that his beloved empire had been destroyed before it happened.
“Dude calm down, do you even know how long you have been asleep? Do you know that you greeted us as the Custodian and began telling us all about this place?” Drake asked, recovering from the shock of Epistaties threats and preparing himself should things go sour.
“Do not tell me to calm down! I did no such thing!” Epistaties yelled back, but even as he did so his shoulders drooping down almost imperceptibly.
“You did, and if you would calm down and tell us your story we will tell you ours and then we can go from there,” Drake replied, hoping that he might have an opening to defuse the situation.
“Yeah, we really aren’t here to cause trouble. Heck, I grew up in a library. I have had a respect for knowledge pounded into me hard enough to know better than trying to burn one down,” Spike said, sensing Epistaties was coming around.
Epistaties was silent for a moment, carefully weighing what had been said against what he remembered. How Discord appeared in the sky above the city, his magic twisting things at random. How he had pulled on the power beneath the city, the very confluence it had been built to study, to undo the chaos. How the golems had fought Discord’s armyn preventing it from breaching the city. He remembered Discord landing in the city, sweeping soldiers and golems away as he had advanced towards Epistaties. How he had thrown up a barrier to prevent Discord from harming the library. He remember how Discord had hammered at it for days, the confluence being used to fuel it long after Epistaties should have failed. How Discord had cursed him even through the barrier. Then the blackness that had followed until he awoke to these two dragons. Perhaps he might listen to what they had to say.
“Perhaps, you are telling the truth,” Epistaties said, relaxing from his battle stance but keeping his guard up. “Tell me your own stories, and if I believe you to be telling the truth I will share my own.”
“Excellent, Epistaties was it, then allow me to introduce myself. I am Drake, and with me is Spike. I will tell my story since it is the shorter of the two believe it or not, and then Spike will share his. Provided of course that suits you well enough.”
“That will be fine, begin when you are ready,”
“Very well, my life in this world started…”
Drake shared his story being careful to leave out any details about his life before becoming a dragon, fielding and deflecting a fair number of question that were thrown his way, treading a careful line to keep Epistaties believing in his story without coming to think he was completely crazy. When he finished, the story-telling duties shifted to Spike, who fielded far more questions as he told of his time in Canterlot and with the Elements of Harmony.
When Spike finished his story the library fell silent aside from the breathing of its three occupants. Had any listened hard enough they could have heard the soft patter of the rain outside. Drake and Spike waited to see if Epistaties would believe their stories or still thought they were agents of Discord.
Epistaties sat slowly into the chair they had found him in and looked both of them in the eyes for a long moment before speaking. “While I do not trust either of you, I believe your stories. As promised I will share with you my own, but first I believe you have some friends waiting outside the city.”
“Yeah, the McFarweathers along with the Cider Twins,” Spike said after releasing a sigh of relief.
“Then I think we should include them in the telling of my story, as it will have much to do with their own pasts, which seem forgotten.”
“Okay sure, just one issue,” Drake said as he motioned back down the hallway he had come in. “There is an army of marauding stone and metal constructs out there that the two of us barely survived against--I doubt he can get the entire McFarweather Family and the Cider Twins here before they killed them.
“Yes the golems do present a problem. Their programs seem to have degraded,” Epistaties said as he scratched his chin. “I may be able to solve that problem if I can have about a pint of dragon’s blood.”
“Whoa now, just how are these golems, as you called them, programed and why do you need dragon’s blood?” Drake asked defensively. Giving his blood to a Minotaur that was ready to kill him but a moment ago seemed like a really bad idea.
“No way am I giving you my blood, what the hay do you even mean about those things having ‘programs,’” Spike chimed, very much on the same page as Drake about this.
“When the empire was at its height, every city was enchanted with runes all tied to the blood of the current ruler. These enchantments provided for all sorts of needs and services. In time we learn how to enchant statues and thus the golems were born. To enchant something, one needs but the write words in the proper order using dragon’s blood for ink. Dragon’s blood has incredible arcane properties, giving the runes the power they need to work the enchantments,” Epistaties explained seeing that this knowledge had been lost to the world. “If one of you would be kind enough to donate some blood then I just need to rewrite the golems program on a sheet of parchment and attach it to one of them. That should restore all of them to proper working order at least for a little while.”
Drake thought it over for a moment while Spike waited to see what he would say. ‘If what Epistaties is saying is true, this empire was far more advanced than I would have guessed. Even if he isn’t, it would be nice to get everyone in here and together to hear his story. I have a feeling it will be much more informative to us than ours were to him.’
“Alright here’s the deal, you can have a pint of my blood, but you have to explain each step you take and everything you are doing in great detail, understood?”
“An acceptable and agreeable bargain, let us begin.”
* * * * * * * * * * *
Chapter 14: Back in My Day
When an old man dies a library burns to the ground.
An African Proverb
Drake hadn’t understood a word of what Epistaties had said while he prepared the ‘patch’ for the golems. Spike, however, had seemed to follow along fairly well, nodding and letting out an “uh huh” from time to time, which was good enough for Drake to let Epistaties continue working. Once the ‘patch’ was prepared, they went outside to find the rain slackening and debated how they would apply the patch. Epistaties had insisted he be the one to apply the patch, but found himself stopped at the edge of the plaza, unable to move any farther from the library.
Epistaties howled in frustration and pushed against the invisible barrier until Drake carried him away from it, despite Epistaties’ protests. Instead, Drake and Spike went just beyond the edge of the plaza. When the first golem attacked, Drake held it down while Spike affixed the ‘patch’ to it. The effects were immediately apparent, as the golems rushing towards them slowed to a stop before going back to their normal patrol routes. Drake told Spike to wait with Epistaties as he ran to get the McFarweathers and the Cider Twins.
Drake’s return took the McFarweathers by surprise, but as he quickly explained what had happened and what he had found that surprise turned to excitement. Before they knew it everyone found themselves packing up and following him into the ruin, some flying, while others carried gear or pulled carts along the ground.
By the time everyone was moved onto the plaza, the rain had stopped completely and the sky was beginning to clear. The final griffins were entering the plaza when the golems again went wild and began attacking. Drake rushed out to distract them while Spike and others grabbed the Griffins under attack and brought them onto the plaza.
“Well I guess the patch was only temporary,” Drake said to Epistaties after he too returned to the plaza.
“Yes and a most troubling thing that it was, but for now everyone is safe. We need to get them inside, the sun is setting and I am sure they would rather sleep somewhere warm and dry. Before that I would like to speak to their leaders and know who I am housing,” Epistaties said, looking over the group as griffins flew about, organizing everything on the plaza.
“I suppose you do deserve that much, but is there enough room to fit everyone in the Library without putting the knowledge you seemed so fanatical to defend at risk?” Drake asked, recalling Epistaties outburst from earlier.
“Oh yes, the Library is much bigger than you think. Beneath the ground floor are several large auditoriums capable of holding over five-hundred occupants. We should be able to put the Griffins up in one while you, Spike, and your unicorn friends can have another one,” Epistaties replied, having had plenty of time to consider such issues as he waited for Drake to return. That time had also seen him come to terms with his city’s destruction and ask Spike many more questions. Unfortunately for him Spike had been unable to answer many of them, but now perhaps the leader of the Griffins could sate his curiosity.
“Alright, I will go get them.” Just as Drake turned to go find Eagle-Eye and Swiftwing, they found him.
“Drake, you told us there was someone here that may know of our history, and now that everyone is here, we would very much like to see him,” Eagle-Eye said politely but firmly, leaving no doubts that he would not be turned away.
“Excellent, I was just about to come and get you two,” Drake said as he stepped out of the way, allowing them an unobstructed view of Epistaties. “Here is the minotaur I wanted you to meet.”
“Greetings, I am Eagle-Eye and this is my mate, Swiftwing. We are the heads of the McFarweather Family of the Driving Wind Clan, part of House Pioneer, subjects of the Red Talon of the Great House Vanguard, the King of the Lonely Erie, and we thank you for your hospitality. Drake has told us that you may know our history, which has become lost to time and chaos.” Eagle-Eye said as he finished his formal introduction, leaving Drake stunned. He hadn’t been expecting anything so formal from the griffins that seemed so rugged and harsh.
“But first we would ask your name, and perhaps instruction on where our family might make their camp within the walls of this ruin,” Swiftwing said, following her mate’s introduction. “Our journey here has been long and not without its trials.”
Epistaties was silent for a moment, but after clearing his throat he spoke. “McFarweather. That is a name I know well. Some of the greatest explorers of the Empire came from your family. At one time I called your leader my friend. That his descendants should live and be the first I meet after awakening to a new world is very interesting indeed. Come, I will show you where your people me stay. Once we have you settled in I will tell you all I can of our shared history, and perhaps you can help end the ignorance I suffer of the time between my battle with Discord and your arrival.” Epistaties walked back into the Library with Eagle-eye and Swiftwing in tow. Once Drake recovered from the twin shocks of the griffin leader’s introductions and Epistaties connection to the McFarweathers, he fell in behind the trio, interested to see what new developments would follow.
Several hours had passed and everyone had settled into the auditorium, the group’s attention centered on Epistaties, who was sitting on the edge of the stage before them preparing to tell his tale.
“Where to begin?” Epistaties asked, drawing a deep breath and collecting his thoughts. “With my birth, the Empire’s? Perhaps I should start in the very beginning.” Epistaties looked over the assembly one last time, looking everyone in the eye before beginning his story.
“When the world was born, its creators made many races. To the Firstborn of each race were given immortality and power to guide their brothers and sisters. The FFirstborn were given time to grow and know the world. During this time something went wrong. What happened was never known to us, for the Firstborn never spoke of it. We do know that many of them died and Tartarus was created to hold the horrors of the conflict.
“The survivors were Tauros, Firstborn of the minotaurs, guide to us, the buffalo, and all other bovines. Then there was Hades, who was Firstborn of the dragons, and guide to them, sea serpents, and all scaled predators. Cerberus, Firstborn of her own kind, the Canyon Wolves, and all other canines. Lastly of those we knew was Zephyr, Firstborn of the griffins, guide to them and all other feathered creatures in the skies.” Epistaties paused, letting the assembly processes what he had said. Flim, Flam, and Spike were about to speak out when Epistaties beat them to the punch. “I do not know where your Princesses came from, unicorns, nor did anyone know who your or the zebra’s Firstborn was; both races came to the Empire long after it had been founded.
“Now then, following the arrival of the second wave, as our mortal forbearers are called, the cerberi and the Canyon Wolves took it upon themselves to guard the entrance to Tartarus, which sits in a massive rift far to the west of here, alongside their guide Cerberus. They also watched for any attempt by its denizens to escape.
“So when Cerberus came into Ponyville, does that mean she still lives? How can that be when it was a he and you said Cerberus was a she?” Spike asked, recalling the unexpected visit Ponyville had recently received.”
“It was likely one of the cerberi who share her name. From time to time they, along with the Canyon Wolves, would move to seal where the Tarturians tried to escape. Afterwards they would leave detachments behind to ensure the new entrances remained sealed,” Epistaties answered before continuing his recounting of forgotten history.
“Hades taught a single generation of dragons, sea serpents and the others how to live before he went to sleep. By that time he was so large that people would find his resting place and mistake him for rolling hills. So long he slept that trees began to grow out of him. He would not awaken until Discord began his attacks.
“Zephyr and her flock set about exploring as much of the world as they could and came to learn about the winds and weather. Even after joining the Empire, griffins remained among the greatest explorers, constantly learning more of the world as new technologies and spells allowed them to travel to places that were previously out of reach.” Epistaties paused and smiled. “It may interest you to know that during my tenure as the Curator of this library, the Empire’s exploration efforts were led by one Comet McFarweather. The chances that you are related to him is one of the reasons I was willing to invite you here, but his is another tale.
“Then there was Tauros. He worked to found the first cities in which all the bovines lived. Early on, however, the buffalo felt a call of wanderlust and began wandering the world, never staying in one place too long. Over time the cities became city-states, and not long after they began to feud. War had come to the world for the first time, and not the last.” Epistaties paused for a moment, perhaps lamenting that conflict seemed an inevitable aspect of life or perhaps just trying to recall the next part of the story.
“As the minotaurs feuded, the griffins built settlements upon the mountain peaks, and the Canyon Wolves, who far outnumbered the cerberi, constructed cities carved into the walls of the great rift in which they lived and made a great fortress near Tartarus’s gates to house their warriors. The dragons nested in the desert to the south, but many also roamed the world. Some would fly with griffins, some would fight alongside the minotaurs and wolves, and still others spent their time gathering rare and unique things, all while learning all they could.
“It was during this time period that the minotaur Pyoiopxoc discovered rune magic when working with the dragon Firescale. How they discovered this is unknown, but it was widely believed they received the help of one of the Firstborn, or perhaps a creator. Regardless, following Pyoiopxoc’s discovery his home, Labyrinthine, used rune magic to improve their city and gain an edge in their conflicts. They would come to subjugate all the other minotaur city states. It was thus that the Empire was created.
Epistaties stopped and looked up at the crowd which was enraptured by his tale. Everyone was coming to terms with what they had heard; the most uplifting and terrifying of these was the existence of the Firstborn. They once had a guide, but where was she now? Drake considered the implication of this as well; had the Firstborn died? What of the Canyon Wolves, did they still live or had they perished under Discord? Flim and Flam wrestled privately with the knowledge the Celestia was not as timeless as they had thought, but perhaps she just wasn’t known to the others because she had been elsewhere in the world.
For Spike, however, this was at once something amazing and terrifying. He was learning so much that he knew Twilight would love to know and so much that would horrify her at the same time, but most of all he was struck by just how much had been lost and would have been forever lost had Epistaties not been cursed.
Seeing that everyone needed some time to rest and come to terms with what he had said, Epistaties decided to end his tale for the night. “I think that is enough excitement for one day. Make yourselves at home, but please don’t take anything off the library shelves. If you feel the need to leave the building do not leave the plaza around the library. The golems as you saw still act of their own accord, and while they might not look like it, they are more than capable of knocking you out of the sky.”
Drake, Spike and the Cider Twins walked out first, going to their own auditorium. Epistaties followed them out, going to his own chamber elsewhere in the library to reunite with his bed after millennia of separation. The griffins, however, remained awake long after the others had left, discussing what they had learned and speculating on what would come next.
The next morning Drake awoke and went onto the plaza to take in the new day, and to find a place to empty his bladder. When he exited the library he saw Epistaties standing in the plaza, unmoving, with his staff resting on the ground. Before Drake could ask if there was anything resembling a restroom anywhere nearby, Epistaties launched into a series of motions that looked not unlike martial arts. His arms and legs moved with a surprising amount to speed and control, the kind Drake had not thought the old minotaur capable of. Drake waited, forgetting about his bladder as he watched, gaining respect for the old geezer as he flowed through his movements.
When Epistaties finished he took a deep breath before picking up his staff and heading back to the door. “Well hello dragon, do you commonly spy on people in the morning?”
“What? No, I was looking for someplace to empty my bladder, thought you would prefer I didn’t use the books,” Drake replied, remembering why he had been outside in the first place.
“Why don’t you just use the restroom inside the library?” Epistaties asked as if it should have been obvious to Drake.
“Wait, the Empire had indoor plumbing that could handle dragons?” Drake asked, astonished. He never would have thought it possible.
Epistaties sighed, being faced once again with the reality that much of what once was is no more. “Yes, come with me and I will show you.” Epistaties paused and scratched at his freshly trimmed beard. “I suppose that I should put a sign up since everyone else will have a similar need once they wake.”
Several hours and one procession to the bathroom later the visitors were again assembled in the auditorium housing the griffins. Everyone was busy eating food they had brought in with them while waiting for Epistaties to come in and continue telling his tale. The griffins primary chewed on a variety of jerky made from their various preys, Flim and Flam eat what fruit they had left, and the dragons ate raw meat from kills made during the trek to Forum. Even while eating, many of those there were multitasking as they waited. Spike and Drake were off to one side attempting to further Drake’s literacy while Flim and Flam talked animatedly, food spraying out their mouths, about possible new inventions they should try to build. Swiftwing, having already finished her food, talked with her warriors as they ate about establishing lookouts and patrols around the building, expecting to be remaining in the library for some time. Eagle-Eye was whispering to Muninn between bites, discussing what they had learned the previous day and ensuring it was all added to the record so it could be shared with the rest of the griffins when the opportunity arose.
Epistaties entered the room, a hush following him as he walk down to the stage where a chair sat waiting for him. His staff tapped the ground as he walked, but today he had an energy about him, an aura of strength that he lacked before. As he mounted the stage all eyes followed him as his audience moved to fill in the rows closest to him, the dragons taking up the aisle. Epistaties took a deep breath before finally beginning.
“Yesterday I told you of the Firstborn and how the Empire was founded, today I will tell you how it became unified, and how it the fall began. I will tell you everything I know. After the minotaur were unified under the rule of the Makrýkératos of Labyrinthine. Tauros took up residence in the city, offering guidance and advice to any who proved worthy. During this time much work was done to develop runes for use to improve daily life. Minotaur cities began to have flowing water, sewage systems, stoves that did not require wood, and lights that burned without fire. During this time contact was made between the griffins and the fledging Empire. Early on the two entities traded resources and knowledge for many years.
"But this peace was not to last. Kókkino̱n-matió̱n Makrýkérato, the third Emperor, decided that rather than trade with the griffins and interact with their queens and kings on the same level, they should all bow before him. Kókkino̱n-matió̱n’s war for conquest lasted one hundred years, and ended with a victory by his forces at the lonely mountain which would later become the sight of High Wind Eerie, a great fortress and gateway to the north.”
Epistiaties held up his hand to calm down the riled griffins. The thought that they had been beaten by minotaurs, who from their experience were never much of an opponent, hurt their pride. “Now, this war was not short and Kókkino̱n-matió̱n convinced several of the smaller griffin kingdoms to join him willingly, which when combined with the rune magic they possessed but the other races did not, allowed for their eventual victory.
“If it is any consolation Kókkino̱n-matió̱n died just a year after his victory, but rather than break free, the griffins used his death as an opportunity to gain power within the Empire, and established themselves in some of the most important positions with the crowning of Sídero-oplí̱ Makrýkérato. Shortly after the end of the war, but before Kókkino̱n-matió̱n’s death, a griffin party formed by Zephyr, who like Tauros had remained impartial during the war, stumbled upon the rift in which the Canyon Wolves dwelt. With his ascension, Sídero-oplí̱ personally lead an expedition at the behest of Tauros to meet with the Canyon Wolves.
"It was at this meeting that the existence of Tartarus was made known to all in the Empire. Sídero-oplí̱, fearing what dwelt within, offered the Canyon Wolves a place in the Empire. The Wolves would receive troops and food, in return the Empire would receive stone, gems, and metals from the mines of the Wolves. It was thus 5000 years after the first minotaur cities were founded, the nucleus of the Empire was formed. Minotaur and bovines, griffins and bird, and Canyon Wolves and canines formed the Empire, with the dragons coming and going as they pleased, some helping, some having to be killed, and others being completely disinterested. For the next 1000 years the Empire, which adopted the name The Grand Empire of Order, expanded and explored the world. Twice during this time period the Empire found and sealed two Tartarus incursions, oddly enough these were also the only times that the dragons came together as a unified force that fought with the soldiers of the Empire. But that is not what is important, what is important is that it was then that the zebras first appeared.
"Where they came from we do not know. The first zebra came from the far south, beyond the desert that the dragons kept as their own. At first they were not trusted, especially when they displayed that they had their own form of magic, but in time they forged a friendship with the roaming buffalo and would in time become just as large a part of the Empire as the other races.”
As he told his story, the light around Epistaties started to bend and weave until it displayed the images of his story. Epistaties now paused, taking a break and drinking some water that had been placed on the stage for him.
“I propose we take a short intermission before the next part, so that everyone can stretch out and come back ready to continue the story.” At his suggestion everyone left the auditorium and began exploring, some to the restrooms, the warriors and Swiftwing to check potential lookout spots, and Drake, like many others, followed Epistaties, intent on asking some questions, only to find himself a part of a guided tour. Spike went back to the auditorium he was sharing with Drake and the Cider Twins to write all he could into his journal, knowing he would not remember it all by the time he once again saw his pony friends.
A short while later, everyone was once again in the griffin’s auditorium, feeling much better and ready for the story to continue, the excitement palpable in the air. Epistaties was on the stage, looking over the whole crowd and doing his best to make eye contact with everyone before beginning.
“Five-hundred years after the arrival of the zebra, two very important events happened. The first was the discovery of a Tartarus incursion that dwarfed all others in what would become the Equestrian Province. The second was the arrival of the three pony tribes. The incursion took the whole of the Empire mobilized for war, and even then it was not enough. The dragons joined in as always, but the tide was seemingly endless. After two-hundred years without victory, Tauros and Zephyr joined the fray with all the cerberi, aside from the Cerberus herself. Even Hades stirred, though he did not wake. The Empire fought them to a standstill, and was becoming desperate for a way to break in when it discovered the ponies.
“They had come from someplace far away, each by a different means, but upon arriving they had begun to fight one another until what they fled found them again. After their leaders found themselves incapacitated their second in commands took over and defeated their enemy. In doing so, they worked a powerful magic that was not fully understood, but was felt by all. It was after that event, teams were sent out to find them and bring them into the Empire. At first the pony tribes baulked, but once we showed them what we faced and offered to help them build their cities, they committed themselves to us.
“With their help we turned the tide and sealed the breach between our world and Tartarus once again. For a time the Empire prospered as never before. It was in this time of prosperity I was born in this city of Forum, the greatest center of research and learning in all the Empire,founded when the dragon Sterling Tongue told the Empire’s scientists and mages about a place where magic leaked into the air. At first there was fear that it was a sight of an impending Tartarus incursion, but that was quickly laid to rest. So instead Forum was built on this site to study that confluence of magic energies. This library served as the center of the city, and is built many stories both above and below the ground. Around this library were four universities. The University of the Arcane, the University of the Mundane, the University of the Society, and the University of the Individual, I hope the names of the university are enough to tell you what they studied. Regardless, that is not important right now.
“I grew up, and through great dedication and study became the Lord High Enchanter of the Imperial Library, in which I am now telling you this story.
“While the Empire prospered, a threat was growing. The Empire was dedicated to order, this you must understand, and in this dedication had developed a method and way for all things, to the point that nothing was unexpected and life was completely ordered across the continent. At some point in this time, Discord came into being. If he was the child of someone practicing dark magic, or perhaps the world seeking balance, no one knows. What is known is that there were signs of his rise to power that were ignored: the disturbance of magic in the Everlasting Wood, the sightings of strange monsters, and many others, but we were blind; they did not sound as though spawned of Tartarus so we ignored the threat. Then there was the swarm, strange creatures that could reproduce asexually and had an insatiable appetite. It was then that every leader of the Empire was called to Labyrinthine to seek advice from Tauros. I was on my way, late due to a broken axle, when Discord struck. He sunk the entire city and all its people into the ground. The ground itself was melted chocolate. Everyone in the city died, including Tauros. I was there as the first of the fallen emerged from the city, lead by their own Firstborn. Grendel the Pale Orge, Hera the Raging Harpy, Sirius the Grasping Diamond Dog, and the Black Queen, Stealer of Hearts. These five would lead the armies of chaos and serve as Discord’s lieutenants.
“I fled the scene and began to rally those I could to me. Fortunately, I was not alone. In response to the death of Tauros, Zephyr was waiting for me here when I returned, the griffins answering her call. Cerberus had sent her own and the wolves to this place as well, and most surprising of all, Hades was in the field outside the city, along with all the dragons of the world. Ponies and zebra streamed in steadily and it was with this force, led by a righteous and vengeful Hades, that we struck back.
“Every time Discord corrupted a city We struck back. But slowly the races were being poisoned. Minotuars who became lethargic turned into ogres, griffins that became angry morphed to harpies, any Canyon Wolf that sought to keep goods for him or herself became a Diamond Dog, and any pony or zebra that lusted found themselves a changeling. The dragon alone seemed unaffected, and fought alongside Hades at every turn, reveling in his actions. To combat this slow attrition, I worked with many others to develop and distribute any cure or vaccine to Discords corrupting influence. The day we succeeded he struck us here. For a week he battered the city, for a week I maintained a shield powered by the confluence that gave rise to Forum. In the space outside the city, his armies clashed with the Empire’s as both sides took horrendous losses. On the seventh day we managed to smuggle the vaccine out, and Hades tore off one of Discords wings.
“That moment of triumph was short lived, as Discord retaliated by taking one of Hades’ for his own. In that moment he cursed me somehow through the barrier, and quit the field. My memories end with the lowering of the shield that night and the retreat of our forces. I can only assume by your presence here that the vaccine worked and through some means Discord was eventually defeated.” Epistaties finished his story and the room was silent; no one moved or said a word. Spike knew firsthand what Discord was like, and Drake knew from having watched it. The rest were faced with the knowledge that for all they had learned, many questions still remained. Eagle-Eye went up and thanked Epistaties before going off to talk with him. The rest of the assemblage went about the rest of their day, all the while coming to terms with what they had heard. Drake went for some fresh air. Spike followed.
Chapter 15: Invites and Plans
Plans are nothing; planning is everything.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
When Spike exited the library he saw clear skies with the sun just passing its zenith. Forum was fully visible and for the first time Spike took a good hard look at it. Even as a ruin he could see its former splendor amongst the shattered remains, and felt a sense of sorrow that it was now in its current state. He could see where neighborhoods and marketplaces once stood, filled with people going about their business. Now there was nothing but the stone skeletons of what once was walls fallen down, roofs caved in, any wood long since rotted away. Every now and then he could see a golem patrolling around the city, watching for intruders.
Spike found Drake standing on the edge of the plaza, stretching. “Hey what are you doing?” Spike called out, walking towards him.
“Getting ready, and you should be too,” Drake replied as he continued stretching.
“Ready for what?”
“This is going to be our home base for the foreseeable future. That means that training is about to be stepped up. The way I see it we can start right now by fighting with these golems. If we start to get overwhelmed or there are too many, we just move back into the plaza.” Drake answered as he finished stretching.
Spike joined in Drake’s stretching, and thus was the beginning of the training that would push each of them to their limits, both physically and mentally. Throughout this training they learned and practiced everything Drake could have hoped for and more. From controlling their greed to aerial combat, simple strength training to full contact sparring matches that would leave both bruised and sore. They increased the power, control and stamina of their respective fire and lightning abilities until they could last for nearly fifteen minutes with a single breath. Finally they trained their minds, learning more about the world and races in it, which heightened the control of their greed forms and let them push themselves to new limits.
The library provided a myriad of information not only for the dragons, but also for the Cider Twins and griffins. While Drake and Spike trained, the Cider Twins read. They read books on magic, mechanics, diplomacy, sampling everything, and in this study, they fell in love with the knowledge and the machines they could make with it. They knew now that following Drake had been the best decision of their lives. The griffins learned many things as well, and after discussing it amongst themselves and Epistaties, they decided that they too would make Forum their home, at least until the next gathering of the Great Houses. They trained, they learned, and once a week they left the city to find food, a dangerous assignment as no two patches pacified the defensive golems for the same amount of time. As they trained the world continued turning and events happened beyond their little corner on it.
As Drake and Spike began their training, a pair of pony princesses met to discuss a cryptic message they received some time ago and another that had just arrived.
“What do you make of this new message Tia? It seems different from the other one.” Princess Luna asked, referencing the messages lying on the desk between them.
“It suggests the threat is real, and this one seems different from the first.” Princess Celestia replied, picking it up. “Regardless, I believe that we should increase the security here in Canterlot. The upcoming wedding is the most likely time of attack so we must be prepared,” Celestia said as she put the letter down and picked up the other one. “And what of this Drake, have you discovered anything about him?”
“No sister, nowhere in the dreamscape can I find him, but after receiving his letter there were reports of animals going missing north of here, as well as a hydra that was found dead with a hole in its stomach.” Princess Luna replied, grimacing slightly as she recalled the scene she had visited personally.
“Do you think this Drake had anything to do with these happenings?” Princess Celestia asked, concerned about what could kill a hydra but would leave its corpse behind.
“It is possible, or it may have been whatever or whoever now threatens us. I am concerned as to why he asked about the stars. We both know the power they hold,” Princess Luna replied.
“Indeed those stars can grant any wish, but there is a limit to their powers. For now we will simply have to wait for someone to show themselves before we can act,” Princess Celestia said with a sigh. “But these preparations can wait until after the National Dessert Completion, which we are judging today,” she continued, now heading for the door. Seeing that Princess Luna wasn’t following her and was instead looking at the letters, Princess Celestia turned back.
“Is something wrong sister?”
“Go enjoy your desserts without me, I will go ahead and meet with the Captain of the Guard to discuss heightening our defenses,” Princess Luna replied, holding up a hoof to stave off Princess Celestia’s objections. “It is fine; I would not feel comfortable judging the competition when there is work to be done ensuring the safety of the kingdom. Go and enjoy yourself, I understand that one of the entries is from Ponyville, perhaps your student will be there.”
Celestia sighed in resignation. “Luna you really do need to get out more.” Holding up a hoof to stop her protests this time, “and no, going to Ponyville on Nightmare Night is not enough public interaction for one year.”
“I promise I will get out more, but this needs to be taken care of now,” Luna said as she grabbed the letters.
“Alright, but I expect you to attend Cadence’s wedding.”
“Very well Tia, I will attend the wedding if I can.” With that the sisters left the room. One to attend a dessert contest and the other the to meet with Shining Armor, Captain of the Guard. Outside the meeting room there were two guards. Both guards looked and acted like normal royal guards, but only one of them was.
“Everything is going according to plan,” thought Queen Chrysalis, disguised as the other guard. “They will be so focused expecting an attack that I will be able to replace Cadence and incapacitate their captain of the guard without anyone realizing it. In just over a month Equestria will be mine!” Then she recalled the other message they had mentioned, “Though I wonder who this Drake might be, and what, if any, role he intends to play in these coming events.”
It was now week until the wedding and Princess Cadence was in her castle apartment when there came a knock at her door. Wondering who it could be, she dropped what she was doing and went to open it. Upon doing so she was met by a lone guard bowing.
“Rise and state your business,” Cadence commanded, wondering what the guard could be there for, given the late hour.
“Your highness are you alone? I bring an urgent message from Princess Luna that is for your ears only.” The guard said, his eyes roaming everywhere, searching for signs that they were being watched.
“I am. Come in and shut the door, but be quick for this is most unusual and given the state of things I assume it is not something that should be delayed,” Cadence replied with concern. Something was very wrong about this; she knew things in Canterlot were tense, and her fiancé Shining Armor was busy maintaining his shield while her aunts watched for danger.
“At once your Highness.” The guard stood and followed Cadence into her apartment, sealing the door with magic behind himself.
“Now what is this urgent message?”
“You are in the way and shall be imprisoned until it is time to watch Equestria fall,” The guard said as he was suddenly enveloped by green fire to reveal the horrifying creature that was Queen Chrysalis. “But don’t worry I promise to take good care of Shining Armor while you are gone.”
Before Cadence could react she was silenced by Chrysalis’s magic and consumed in a ring of fire, which transported her to the Crystal Mines beneath the castle. Chrysalis smiled as she watched Cadence disappear. “My plan is almost complete, soon all of Equestria will be mine,” She thought as she assumed Cadence’s form. “Now I just have to gain control of Shining Armor, shouldn’t be too hard to do. After all, what groom can resist his bride?” Chysalis laughed to herself as she began exploring Cadence’s apartment and memorizing where everything was.
That morning Shining Armor had met with the Diarchal Sisters about the security of Canterlot and found himself discussing his wedding plans. During this discussion a topic came up which would prove to throw a wrench in all Chrysalis’ plans. When Princess Celestia asked how Twilight had taken the news, the entire room fell silent as Shining Armor’s face went from horrified to embarrassed.
“You did tell your sister that you are getting married didn’t you?” Celestia asked fearing she already knew the answer.
“Ah….hehe. It must have slipped my mind,” Shining Armor responded. “I don’t suppose I could get you to send her an invite. We already sent them out.” The room was silent as Celestia rubbed her temples and Luna just shook her head. Then an idea came to her. “Why don’t we invite all the bearers of the elements to come to the wedding?”
“What? Why?” Shining Armor asked.
“Well we are currently in a siege mentality, and the past two major threats to peace and harmony, myself as Nightmare Moon and Discord, have been beaten by those six, so let’s invite them to the wedding that way they are here, near the elements should our mysterious enemy decided to show themselves.
“That’s a ter--”
“Wonderful idea sister,” Celestia said, cutting off Shining Armor. “In fact I think we should have them take over all the jobs for the wedding, catering, dress making, entertainment and music; that way they will have reasons to be here, and take some of the worry off your plate.”
“I don’t know…”
“It’s that or I tell Twilight you forgot to invite her to your wedding,” Celestia said with an air of finality.
“Ok I don’t like it but I suppose it can’t hurt anything. I’ll leave this to you then.”
“Very well, if we don’t have anything else to discuss this should be taken care of quickly,” Luna said to close the meeting. Celestia and Shining nodded in agreement and together they left the meeting room and went about their business.
As he walked away, Shining thoughts were consumed by one worry. “How in Tartarus am I going to explain this to Cadence?“
A month is a short time, a mere thirty or so days, but a month can also be a long time when each and every day is spent improving yourself. For Drake and Spike, it had been a very long month indeed, and both showed signs of the trials they had put themselves through. Their training had not just been physical, sharpening their reflexes and strengthening their bodies, but also mental, to improve their self-control and intelligence. Sparring, exercising, taking trips beyond Forum to practice their greed control, flight, and fire breathing, coupled with classes from Epistaties and free time spent reading in the library, had changed Spike from the pudgy little hatchling he once was to a graceful, strong drake coming into his own with a vast intellect and razor sharp wit. He now stood shoulder to shoulder with the Cider Twins and had an impressive set of wings fit for his new physique. Spik’s starling growth had taken him by surprise but after dicussing it with Drake and Epistaties that decided that once he started acting more like a dragon his growth was accelerated to fit his age and the needs of his new lifestyle. Drake too had changed, becoming stronger and smarter than before, more knowledgeable of his new body and the world around him, learning more than he ever thought possible in such a short time. In his studies he had found spells and technologies he believed would allow him to rebuild much of the Empire, perhaps even above and beyond its peak, in due time.
During this month, more happened in Forum than just the training of a pair of dragons. The griffin, having decided to make Forum their permanent home, worked with Epistaties to begin cleaning and restoring the Library. Flim and Flam spent most of their time studying in the Arcane and Mundane wings of the Library and began work on several new projects to either help in the reconstruction, or as new products to sell in Equestria when next they returned. Epistaties had spent the month working with the people he now shared the Library with. He taught those that couldn’t how to read, write, and do math, among other things. He also worked with Drake and the griffin leaders to find a way to neutralize the golems once and for all.
After this long month of training, Spike was resting on the plaza when he felt a familiar feeling tickling in his gut. A moment later he belched and a letter appeared before him. “What ‘s this...?” Spike thought as he opened it, noticing one was carrying Princess Celestia’s seal. “Let’s see here. Princess Celestia cordially invites you…” Spike bolted upright as he finished reading the letter. “Shining Armor is getting married!” he cried out, causing the griffins outside to look at him curiously. “Sorry about that,” Spike called out as he went to find Drake, knowing he would want to see the letter, all the while wondering if this hadn’t been what Drake had spoken of what seemed like so long ago.
Drake was reading about the history of the Empire of Order, trying to learn all he could about the society that had been destroyed, and most importantly how it had been destroyed, when Spike suddenly rounded the corner, crashing into him.
“There you are,” Spike said, recovering from the crash. “I got a wedding invite from the Princess Celestia; thought you might like to see it.”
“No need. Let me know when you get the second message. Then we will get ready to leave,” Drake replied, a smile forming.
Before Spike could ask what Drake meant, he belched up yet another royal letter. “I guess this is the second message.”
“That it is. Go ahead, read them so you know what’s up, send ‘em to Twilight, and then meet me at Flim and Flam’s workshop,” Drake replied, putting away the book he was reading before leaving.
“So it is time for a wedding,” Drake thought as we walked towards the workshop. “Let’s hope all this training and studying pays off.” As he was walking, Drake saw Epistaties and called him over. “Hey, I remember you said that every city in the Empire was bound to the Emperor or something to that effect?”
“Yes, the Emperor’s blood was mixed with dragon blood and a very complex enchantment was used to give him control of the defenses of all the cities, along with many other functions as well. Others could be added to this enchantment, but once they died it was not passed on to their descendants like it was with the Emperor,” Epistaties replied.
“So if we had the Emperor here we could change the enchantments on Forum so that I was recognized as the Emperor?”
“I suppose, but the Emperor died when Labyrinthine was destroyed, and the lineage has been lost,” Epistaties replied morosely. “Why are you bringing this up now?”
“You mentioned once that an heir to the throne had survived, and that a group of minotaurs, enough to maintain a small but healthy population, had fled for the Equestrian Province, which is what is today Equestria.”
“I think it may be possible that an heir is alive in Equestria, and if we can find him or her then we can change over ownership of this city to the people living here,” Drake continued,his voice rising in volume a bit. “So the only trick is finding out who is the rightful heir.”
“Yes, but once again we have no way to figure that out,” Epistaties replied, somewhat frustrated that Drake was ignoring the one major issue.
“What if we, using the existing enchantment binding this city, have the Cider Twins try to scry the heir?” Drake asked, hoping that such a thing was possible
Epistaties pondered Drake’s question for a moment before coming to the conclusion that it couldn’t hurt. ”I suppose we can give it a try, but I can’t say if it will work.”
“Good enough for me, now come on; I’m meeting with them now to plan for a trip back to Equestria that we will be embarking on tomorrow.” Drake said as he began walking off, making Epistaties work for a moment to catch up.
“What?! Why didn’t you mention this sooner?” Epistaties asked with annoyance once he was abreast with Drake.
“I only learned the date of the wedding today,” Drake replied in an offhand manner.
“Do I even want to know the story behind this?” Epistaties asked resignedly, a hand rubbing his temples.
“I doubt it, Spike can give you some detail if you really want them. I will tell you the whole story once we get back,” Drake answered before noticing Epistaties looking skeptical. “Seriously, scouts honor,” Drake defended, holding up a claw in the best scout salute he could manage when missing a finger.
A short time later Drake, Spike, Flim, Flam, and Episaties were gathered in the workshop. Having already explained whose wedding it was and Drake providing no reason other than he felt it was time for Spike to return home, they set about planning the trip to Canterlot, discussing the feasibility of the scrying spell, and planning what would happen at the library once they left.
“I suppose we need to get Eagle-Eye and Swiftwing in here before we set any of this in stone,” Drake said, realizing he had forgotten about them in the excitement of the wedding news.
“Yes, seeing as they are going to be the ones in charge once you leave,” Epistaties replied, making it clear he had no interest in being in charge when there were others that could do the job.
“Alright,” Drake said before ducking out the workshop and catching a griffin just as she entered the hallway. “Hey Preen, can you do me a favor?”
Preen jumped in surprise, but recovered quickly and replied, “Of course, what do you need, sir?”
“Can you go find Eagle-Eye and Swiftwing and ask ‘em to come to Flim and Flam’s workshop I need to talk to ‘em about something that came up.”
“Certainly, sir. Any reason I should give them?” Preen asked as she took off to find her clan’s leaders.
“Tell ‘em I’m making some vacation plans,” Drake replied before slipping back into the workshop. Preen scratched her head for a moment before flying off.
Back in the workshop Drake decided to steer the conversion back to finding the rightful heir of the Empire’s throne. “So while we are waiting on those two, Flim, Flam, do you think y’all two could cast a spell to scry the rightful heir to the throne of the Empire, provided one lives?”
The brothers put their heads together and whispered between one another for a moment before looking up and nodding. “We might if we have something that belongs to the heir, but scrying spells require more power the further away the item you are scrying is to resolve an image.” Flam pulled out a chalkboard and Flim began writing. “If our estimate is accurate we can find the heir if he is at Bastion, and even then we will only be able to sense him for an instant.”
“Is there a way we could boost your power?” Drake asked, hoping there would be some way to pull this off.
“So far as we know…”
“Yes,” Epistaties interrupted. “Yes there might be a way. I believe I had mentioned that the Empire’s cities gather solar, wind, ambient magical, and any other energy they had access to.” Drake, Spike and the brother nodded in confirmation. “Well we also had a means to store any energy that wasn’t used.”
“And this city has been storing energy since the Empire’s fall!” Spike exclaimed, beginning to grasp the magnitude of energy that might be stored.
“Well theoretically, it depends on how well the structures and enchantments used to gather the energy have held up through the years, as well as what kind of drains or leaks there may have been,” Epistaties corrected.
“So if there is any energy, where is it stored?” Flim asked.
“And how can we tap into it?” Flam followed up.
“As far as where it is stored, I would like to keep that a secret a little bit longer,” Epistaties answered, the hard look on his face leaving no room for argument. “Tapping into it, however, shouldn’t be too difficult. There was and should still be a chamber beneath the Arcane wing that was used to research high level spells and enchantments. Inside is a terminal that allows whoever is using the room to tap into a portion of the stored energy. The amount is regulated by an interface outside the room that I can control for you.”
“Ok, so we have a way to find the heir. Now to talk about the vacation I have planned,” Drake said, noticing Eagle-Eye and Swiftwing coming into the workshop.
“Preen mentioned something about a vacation when she found us, just what is going on?” Eagle-Eye asked.
“Yes, me and Spike are going to a wedding,” Drake replied, getting some enjoyment out of everyone reactions.
“What!” The griffins yelled in surprise.
“Spike you want to explain this?” Drake asked, trying to stifle a laugh.
“Well um. See I was raised by the sister of the groom and the groom is like a brother to me. Also I have planned to return to Equestria all along. Now that Drake and I have developed our mastery of our Greed, and I have grown up from looking like a baby to what I do now, I figure now is a good time for me to go home, right Drake?”
“Basically. In short I brought Spike with me for a mutual exchange of information and promised him that he would be going home for a wedding, the upcoming wedding he just got the invite for,” Drake explained, glad Spike was able to give a decent and true explanation of why they were going back.
As everyone calmed down they began to discuss what would happen until Drake returned. It was decided that the dragons would leave the next morning, heading for Canterlot at full speed. While that was happening the Cider Twins would scry the location of the heir then head out to find him or her. A team of griffins would escort them to the gap near Fort Bastion. While the twins went on their way, the griffins would go to find other Families and invite them to come to Forum and help in its rebuilding. Once the twins found the heir, they would contact Drake and together the three of them would return with the heir.
Once everyone was in agreement and the meeting had ended, everyone went about in preparation for the coming events. Later that evening a party was held to both bid the dragons farewell and good luck. It lasted into the night but in due time everyone was taken by sleep. When the sun rose in the morning Drake and Spike departed the city, heading east. One was looking forward to a homecoming, while the other was readying himself for battle.
At the same time as the meeting in Forum, a group of friends in Ponyville were holding a picnic. It was in the middle of this when a wisp of smoke swirled before one of them and materialized into a pair of scrolls with broken seals. Everything stopped as the recipient sat there and stared at the scrolls while her friends stared at her.
Finally one of the spoke out. “Twilight darling are those from who I think they are?”
“I think so Rarity,” she replied without taking her eyes of them.
“Then don’t you think you should, I don’t know, read them?” Rainbow said
“Oh right,” Twilight replied, now moving to read them. A moment later she yelled out in anger and disbelief before passing them off. “WHAT!”