The center of Ponyville was filled with what was probably the loudest ruckus possible.
Seemingly every single inhabitant of the small village was gathered in front of the town hall, most of them stuck in a heated argument over the latest threat to the town.
One of the ponies there was Cirrus Cloud, a cyan-coated, white-maned pegasus. Her long, wispy hair closely resembled her namesake, and her cutie mark was a white silhouette of a pegasus. She timidly looked around, unsure what everypony was talking about. She’d only just gotten there, and couldn’t make out a single word through all of the noise. Too shy to ask around, she simply opted to wait until somepony made an announcement.
A few moments later, a voice tried to reach over the crowd. “Fillies and gentlecolts, may I have your attention, please?” said the brown pony with a grey mane and tail standing in front of the town hall, aptly named Mayor Mare. The crowd mostly died down, but some ponies still whispered to each other.
Mayor Mare cleared her throat and continued. “As you all might have heard, a large dragon has appeared, and taken up residence on the field just outside Whitetail Woods.”
“A...a dragon?” Cirrus Cloud whispered to herself. She wasn’t the only one, as the whole crowd started murmuring to itself.
“There is no reason to be alarmed, everypony,” the mayor continued, “the dragon isn’t taking his thousand-year nap like the last one, and while it isn’t exactly...” the mayor paused for a long moment, trying to find the right word, “talkative, it doesn’t look like it means us ill will.”
While the mayor continued her speech, Cirrus’ thoughts wandered off. A dragon, just outside Whitetail Woods? The last time Ponyville had to deal with a fully-grown dragon, it was a complete and total mess. Then again, it was some kind of weird temporary transformation the local librarian’s assistant, Spike, had gone through. And before that, there was that dragon who had taken up residence in the mountains and threatened to cover the entire area in smoke.
Regardless, Cirrus Cloud was interested, for some reason. Dragons might be dangerous and scary, but ponies could rarely see an adult dragon. The great dragon migration was possibly the only time of the year you could even see them, and even then, they were far away, up in the sky.
Cirrus paused for a moment. Why would a dragon come this close to Ponyville? And alone, for that matter. She didn’t know a lot about dragons, but she was pretty sure that a dragon wouldn’t come to a pony village alone for no reason.
As the crowd started dispersing, Cirrus was pulled out of her thoughts. The mayor had finished her talk, and every pony present was going back to their daily routine, most of them chatting amongst each other about the dragon.
Cirrus sighed. She didn’t have any friends, herself; while she often met ponies through her work, she didn’t feel like there was anypony she could confide in. She was just too shy to ever get close to other ponies, even though everypony was very friendly towards her.
“Omigosh, a dragon, in Ponyville!” A pink pony had suddenly appeared next to Cirrus Cloud, excitedly chatting with the blue pegasus. “Isn’t that exciting? Do you think he’ll need a welcome party? Yeah, I think he needs a welcome party. But how do you plan a welcome party for a dragon?”
Cirrus stared at the other pony, not at all bothered by her sudden appearance. For some reason, she almost never got surprised by anything. Even when the pony next to her, Pinkie Pie, had thrown a surprise party for her when she started living in Ponyville, she wasn’t surprised.
“What do you think, C.C.? Can I call you C.C.?” Pinkie asked. “I mean, it’s not every day a dragon needs a surprise party! Wait, how do you surprise a big, huge, enormous dragon anyway?”
“Oh, I, um...” Cirrus didn’t know what to say. Pinkie Pie was friendly, but she could be a tad overwhelming. Why would she ask Cirrus, of all ponies, how to surprise a dragon? “I don’t know, Miss Pie. Um... maybe somepony can ask him?” She idly toyed with her mane. “And C.C. is okay, I guess.”
Pinkie Pie gasped. “That’s a great idea! Oh, but I don’t have much time, could you ask him? Please?” With a smile, she added, “You can just call me Pinkie, by the way. All my friends do!”
“M-Me?!” Cirrus exclaimed. “You want me to ask a dragon how to throw a welcome party for it?”
“Pretty please?” Pinkie Pie asked, giving Cirrus a pleading look. For extra effect, she added in some big puppy eyes.
Well, even though Cirrus barely knew Pinkie, she wasn’t one for declining a request. That would just be rude! “Okay,” she said with a sigh.
“Yay, thank you!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed. “But I really have to go now, there’s hungry customers at Sugarcube Corner!” She started hopping away from the confused Cirrus, but stopped with a pensive look on her face. “Oh, could you ask him what his favourite colour is? And his favourite cupcake flavour?”
Cirrus Cloud nodded meekly, unsure of what she had gotten herself into now.
“Okay then, see you later!” Pinkie Pie said as she left for work.
Cirrus let out a deep sigh. Go to a dragon, ask it how to throw a welcome party for dragons, and ask it about its favourite things. No biggie, right? She cast a glance in the direction of Whitetail Wood.
Incredibly dark, almost black clouds floated right over the forest. Cirrus sighed again. If she didn’t want to get wet, she’d have to do it quickly.
The dragon wasn’t really hard to find. The grassy fields around the forest were usually empty, only being used for things like friendly competitions and the like, but now, there was hulking mass of grey scales and bright red spines. A few ponies were standing around it at a fair distance, softly talking to each other. Some of them were already leaving, wanting to be home before the rain.
The dragon, however, wasn’t doing anything. It was laying down, curled up, not paying attention to the ponies around it. Its chest was softly going up and down, and small wisps of smoke curled from its nostrils.
Cirrus Cloud stood a bit farther away than most ponies, staring at the dragon’s back. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea... However, Pinkie Pie had asked her, and she didn’t want to return with no information. She stood around for a while, mulling over her options. How exactly does one approach a dragon, anyway?
After every other pony had left, Cirrus managed to muster up enough courage to approach the dragon. Slowly, she walked closer. “Um, hello?”
“Mister dragon?” the scared pegasus tried.
The dragon shrugged and repositioned itself a little.
Cirrus took a deep breath and walked around the dragon, stopping when she stood in front of its head. She could almost hear her legs wobbling out of fright. “Um, mister dragon, I wanted to ask you something, well, actually, somepony else wanted to ask you something, but she asked me to ask you because she didn’t have much time...” she rambled, too scared to stop. What would the dragon do if she stopped talking? She wasn’t exactly eager to find out.
“...and I don’t know if dragons even like cupcakes, but maybe with gemsto—” Cirrus suddenly stopped as the dragon opened one massive eye.
The eye was as red as the dragon’s spines, and was staring at Cirrus with a mildly annoyed look.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” Cirrus said, “I started rambling, I think I do that when I get scared...” She hung her head as it started raining. And not even all that softly, either; within moments, her wet mane stuck to her face. “But, um, if you could just tell me your answer, then I can leave you alone again, I mean, not that I know if you want to be left alone, but...” she trailed off, not knowing what to say next.
The dragon didn’t say anything, but continued to stare.
“You could also say no, if you don’t want to answer,” Cirrus timidly added.
The dragon shook its head ‘no’.
“Oh...” Cirrus said, feeling disappointed. “I’m sorry, I’ll just... leave, then.”
The dragon shook its head again, raising its head up. Even though it was still laying down, it already looked more enormous than it already was. It pointed a claw at its throat.
Cirrus tilted her head sideways. “Do you have something stuck in your throat?”
The black clouds above started rumbling ominously. Were there pegasi playing on top of them?
The dragon shook its head once more. This time, it opened its mouth, pointed at it, and shook its head again.
“Um... I don’t think I understand. Can’t you just say it?” Cirrus asked. She glanced upward and saw little bolts of lightning dancing among the clouds. She really had to get home before the weather got even worse.
The dragon cast its head down, looking rather sad. It scratched at the ground with a claw for a bit, then pointed at the ground.
Curiously, Cirrus looked over. She could make out text, although it was really big. After looking at it for a few moments, she realized what it said.
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Cirrus exclaimed, “I had no idea!” She felt really awkward now. Then again, she couldn’t really have guessed it. “I-I didn’t mean it,” she said, hastily stepping back. She really hoped she hadn’t made the dragon angry, because who knows what it might do then!
As she backpedaled, she suddenly slipped. All of the rain had made a particularly dirty patch of ground even dirtier, making it more like a muddy pool. “Ow,” Cirrus said as she stood up. When she tried to move, however, she found that she couldn’t. With all her might, she attempted to lift her hooves, but they were stuck in the mud. “Oh no,” was all Cirrus could say to that.
The dragon, meanwhile, eyed her curiously. It wasn’t doing much to reassure Cirrus, though.
In a futile effort, Cirrus flapped her wings, but she couldn’t get loose. After a lot of useless flapping, she had to pause to catch her breath.
Suddenly, an ear-splitting crack pierced the air, accompanied by a flash of lightning.
Cirrus smelled the air. Something was burning. She looked at the dragon. “Um, that wasn’t you, was it, mister dragon?” she asked, still scared.
The dragon merely looked behind the little pegasus.
Cirrus turned her head to see the edge of the forest. A big tree with a charred and smoking bottom stood there, a bolt of lightning having struck it, dealing hefty damage. With a loud groan, it started falling over.
What was even worse, it started falling over in Cirrus’ direction.
With a scream, she huddled close to the ground and closed her eyes. This was it, she had gone to the dragon, and she’d met her end. Not at the claws of the dragon, but through something else entirely.
But... it was taking quite a long time. Carefully, Cirrus opened her eyes. She only saw the dragon in front of her, but when she looked up, she could see the tree floating above her, surrounded by the grey dragon’s tail.
Apparently, the dragon had caught the tree in midair with its tail, just before it could squish the terrified pony. With a massive claw, the dragon carefully pulled Cirrus out of the mud, setting her down beside the dirty pool.
The blue pegasus stood stock still for a while. The dragon... had just saved her. It took Cirrus a while to process what just happened, but when she did, she could only say one thing. “Thank you!” she exclaimed with an exasperated gasp, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” She didn’t know if her eyes were tearing up because of her quite recent experience, or the rain was simply getting into them.
The dragon, meanwhile, was looking at her inquisitively, like it wanted to know if she was okay.
With a sigh, Cirrus sat down to catch her breath. It was still raining, she was still wet and dirty, but she didn’t really care. She was just happy that tree didn’t fall on her.
The dragon scratched something in the ground again. Slowly, Cirrus stood up and went over to read it.
Cirrus Cloud looked up at the dragon. “Yes, I’m fine, thanks to you. Oh, sweet Celestia, I almost bit the dust there. If it weren’t for you...” She stood around awkwardly for a moment. “My name is Cirrus Cloud, by the way. What’s your name?”
The dragon scratched in the ground once more.
Cirrus looked up at the massive dragon. “It’s been nice to meet you, Slatescale,” she said. “But I’m wet and dirty, and I don’t want to get a cold, so I have to go home.”
Slatescale gave an understanding nod.
As Cirrus headed in the direction of Ponyville, she looked back at the lonely dragon again. She waved and said, “I can... come back tomorrow, if that’s okay with you.” She didn’t know why she said it, but she did.
Slatescale gave a wave back, and nodded.
Cirrus continued towards her home with a strange smile on her face. Even though her day had been incredibly weird, she was oddly content. But also, kind of scared.
Why in Equestria did she promise a dragon to come visit?
Cirrus wiped some moisture off her brow. Carefully, she poked at the small mass of white clouds in front of her, molding it into an elaborate shape.
“Aaand... Done!” She gave her work a critical look: it was a sculpture of a rearing pegasus, wings spread wide, made entirely out of clouds. She had just finished adding the last details, and now, it was ready to be delivered to the client.
Cirrus carefully shoved the sculpture aside, effortlessly floating it to the side of the table. She gathered up the remaining pieces of cloud that were floating around and squashed them together. The result was a tiny cloud, perfect for use in a later project.
She put the little cloud in a box in the corner of her ground-bound workshop. She’d love to have a cloud-house, but that made it difficult to do business with ponies who weren’t pegasi. Cirrus’ house was fine as-is: a simple, one-pony house connected to a workshop, with a sizeable shed in the back to store clouds in. It had everything the shy pegasus needed. The workshop itself was a sizeable room, with a worktable in the middle and little else. Not much was needed to prevent her sculptures from drifting off, except a few walls and a roof.
A loud knocking on the door leading outside got Cirrus’ attention. Hastily, she went over to the door and opened it. On the other side was a pegasus with a cyan coat, a rainbow-coloured mane and tail and pink eyes. “Oh, hello, Miss Rainbow Dash,” Cirrus said. “Can I help you with anything?”
“Uh, yeah,” Rainbow Dash said, awkwardly rubbing the back of her head with a hoof. “I need a few clouds for today’s weather. I didn’t check, and I used too many while doing a few stunts yesterday.”
Cirrus went back to her sculpting table and checked her list of clouds. She had quite a bunch, but considering the orders she was working on, she could only afford to give a few to Rainbow Dash. “How many do you need?”
“I need five white clouds, four rain clouds and a thundercloud,” Rainbow said.
Cirrus sighed. If she gave that many clouds away, she couldn’t complete all of her orders on time. On the other hoof, it was important for the weather to be as it was scheduled, and on top of that, it was plain rude to decline a request like that. “Sure, you can grab them from the shed.”
“Awesome! Thanks!” Rainbow Dash immediately flew up, the force of her takeoff moving Cirrus’ recently-made cloud sculpture. Not even a second later, she returned. “Wait, Pinkie Pie asked you to talk to that dragon, right? How did that work out?”
Cirrus dove towards the sculpture, managing to stop it right before it bumped into a wall. She carefully put it back in its former place, floating above the table. “Um, yes, she did,” she said as she walked back to the door. “The dragon was... nice, I guess?”
Rainbow raised an eyebrow. “You guess? Isn’t that easy to tell? What did he say?”
“He, um...” Cirrus idly kicked at the ground. “He didn’t say anything. He’s mute.”
Rainbow Dash blinked a few times. “How did you talk to him? How did you even find out he’s mute?”
“He wrote it in the dirt after he saved me,” Cirrus said. “I got stuck in the mud because of the rain, and then a tree was struck by lightning, and it almost fell on me. Mister Slatescale caught it.”
“Lightning?!” Rainbow Dash frowned. “There wasn’t supposed to be any lightning at the Whitetail Woods yesterday.” She hopped into the air and snorted. “You could’ve been seriously hurt! I’m going to find the pony responsible for this and make sure they apologise.”
Cirrus reached out to stop her. “Wait, Miss Rainbow Dash—”
“I’ll come pick up those clouds later!” Rainbow said, taking off once more.
“...You don’t have to do that,” Cirrus mumbled. She sighed and closed the door. She briefly made sure that her sculpture wouldn’t drift off again, and looked at her list of clouds. The weather was more important than her work, but now, she’d have to go tell her clients that their orders would take a little longer. Cirrus usually took a few clouds when the sky was supposed to be cleared, but with the current forecast, it’d take a while until she could restock.
On top of that, she also said she’d visit Slatescale, which might not have been such a good thing to say. Sure, the dragon was kind and had saved her, but he was still... Well, he was a giant, scary dragon. But Cirrus said she’d visit him, so that’s what she was going to do.
First, however, she needed to inform her clients that their cloud sculptures were delayed. With a groan, Cirrus went outside.
About an hour later, Cirrus found herself close to the Whitetail Woods again. She was looking at Slatescale from a distance. For some reason, she couldn’t work up the courage to approach him again. Maybe he had changed his mind, and wanted to be left alone?
It was hard to tell. Just like yesterday, Slatescale was curled up on the ground, facing away from the little pegasus. It was difficult to tell, but his red spines rose and twitched slightly every now and then. If he was asleep, Cirrus could just walk up to him and check, and be on her way again if Slatescale wanted to be left alone.
As carefully as she could, Cirrus tip-hoofed towards the dragon. Without making a noise, she managed to walk around Slatescale, to check if he was really sleeping.
One of his big, red eyes stared straight at Cirrus, causing her to freeze up. Evidently, Slatescale wasn’t sleeping, as he slowly lifted his head.
Cirrus felt all the blood draining away from her face. “Uh, h-hi, Mister S-Slatescale. I-I was just...” She stammered for a few seconds. “I said I’d c-come back, so... Here I am?” She raised one of her hooves slightly and waved at the large dragon.
Slatescale smiled and waved back at her with one of his massive claws.
Awkwardly, Cirrus put her hoof back down. “Um... H-How are you?”
Slatescale gave a short nod, then pointed at Cirrus and tilted his head.
“You’re asking how I am?” Cirrus asked, to which Slatescale nodded. “I, uh... I’m fine,” Cirrus lied. She felt pretty bad about telling her clients that their orders were delayed. They said they couldn’t blame Cirrus for it, but that didn’t stop her from apologizing multiple times.
Slatescale smiled and nodded again. He tried gesturing something with both of his claws, ultimately contorting his face a little in confusion. Eventually, he dug one of his fingers into the ground again, writing out a message. ‘THANK YOU’.
Cirrus stared at the text for a few seconds. “‘Thank you’?” She looked at Slatescale and raised an eyebrow. “For what?”
Again, Slatescale wrote something on the ground. ‘VISITING’. Underneath that, he added, ‘IT IS LONELY HERE’.
“Oh!” Cirrus blushed. “N-No problem, really! But I thought other ponies visited you, too?”
Slatescale gave a quick nod. ‘THEY ARE NOT AS NICE AS YOU’, he wrote on the ground.
Cirrus’ blushing increased in intensity, making it feel like her cheeks were about to burst into flames. “Th-Thank you,” she managed to say. “But don’t you have any dragon friends?”
Slatescale’s smile turned into a solemn frown. Slowly, he shook his head. He turned slightly, facing an empty patch of ground. He wrote, ‘COMPLICATED’.
“Oh,” Cirrus said. “Sorry.” She idly toyed with her mane for a few seconds, unsure of what to say. “You know, I don’t have any pony friends. I talk to a few ponies sometimes, but I’m always working, plus I don’t want to bother them. I’ve never done anything fun with them.”
Slatescale didn’t do or write anything, continuing to stare at Cirrus with a sullen look.
“I-I’m sorry for bringing it up,” Cirrus said. “I shouldn’t have done that.” She took a few steps back before turning to leave. “I-I’ll just leave you alone now.”
She quickly found herself walking into Slatescale’s claw, which he had planted on the ground right in front of her. “Hey! What’re you doing?” Cirrus asked as she turned around. “You’re not... angry, right? I-I’m really sorry, honest!”
Slatescale shook his head again and wrote a lengthy message in the dirt.
Cirrus looked at the new text, but she couldn’t make out the entire message from the ground. She spread her wings and flew up, matching the height of Slatescale’s head. From there, she could read what he had written: ‘WE BOTH HAVE NO FRIENDS. WANT TO BE FRIENDS?’
Cirrus blinked a few times. Then, she looked at Slatescale, who gave her a big smile. She looked back at the message to read it again. “I...” Her mouth flapped up and down uselessly as she looked at Slatescale again, who looked somewhat concerned now. Cirrus’ confused look slowly turned into a huge smile. “I’d love that, Mister Slatescale! I’d love to be your friend!”
Slatescale gave a big, toothy grin. He quickly sat upright, towering over the hovering pony, and extended a claw to her.
Cirrus extended her hooves, grasping one of the dragon’s large fingers. She tried shaking it, but only managed to move her own body. In response, Slatescale shook his claw ever so slightly, which, for him, was a gentle gesture, but on Cirrus’ end, it was more like a violent shake-up.
The tiny pegasus could only hold on for about a second before losing her grip, tumbling through the air with a surprised shout. She landed far earlier than expecting, on something hard, yet warm. After shaking her head to get rid of the dizziness, Cirrus inspected what she had landed on: something covered in black scales, and if she looked to the side, really big fingers.
Slatescale lifted the claw with which he had caught Cirrus, and raised her to his face, giving her an apologetic look.
Cirrus snorted, then giggled. Quickly, the giggling turned into full-blown laughter. “I’m sorry, Mister Slatescale!” She said between chortles. “I-I’m not laughing at you! I don’t even know why I’m laughing!”
Slatescale raised an eyebrow and smiled, carefully setting Cirrus down on the ground again. Once more, he wrote something in the ground. ‘YOU DO NOT HAVE TO CALL ME MISTER’.
As soon as Cirrus read the text, she stopped laughing. “Oh. Um, I’m really, really sorry, Mist— Uh, I mean, Slatescale.”
Suddenly, Slatescale’s body started shuddering, and the huge dragon wheezed and snorted. He quickly bent forward, and with a shaky claw, wrote something again. ‘WE ARE FRIENDS. DOES NOT MATTER.’
Cirrus breathed a sigh of relief. “O-Okay. Right. Friends.” This would take some getting used to. “What are you doing, anyway? Are you okay?”
Slatescale nodded and took a few seconds to compose himself. ‘LAUGHING’, he wrote.
“Oh!” Cirrus giggled. “That’s... kind of funny.” She’d never heard mute laughing before. As she looked at all of the things Slatescale had written in the ground, she couldn’t help but grin. She couldn’t even remember the last time she felt this happy!
But on the other hoof... “Hey, Slatescale?” Cirrus pointed at all of the enormous words written in the dirt. “You wrote a lot of stuff today, and the ground’s almost full.”
Slatescale looked at the ground, seeing that about half of the clearing was filled with his writing. He gave a quick shrug and wiped away some of the text with his claws.
“Oh. That works, I guess,” Cirrus said. “But what I mean is...” she trailed off, sitting down. “What if you could, I don’t know...” She made a few big gestures with her hooves. “What if you didn’t have to write to communicate?”
Slatescale looked at her and raised an eyebrow.
“Uh, never mind. I was just thinking out loud.” Cirrus briefly looked in the direction of the sun, noticing that it had almost reached the horizon. “Is it that late already? I should go home.” She stood up, flicking her tail to get rid of some dirt that was caught in it. “I haven’t eaten dinner yet, and I still have to take care of some work. I can come back tomorrow, if you want?”
Slatescale deflated a little and laid down, giving a quick, but eager nod.
“Then I’ll see you tomorrow!” Cirrus said as she rushed back home. Before she left the clearing, she turned around and waved at Slatescale, who gave a wave back.
Cirrus was disappointed that she had to leave, but she also felt strangely happy. She should have tried making friends a lot earlier! She couldn’t wait to visit Slatescale again tomorrow, but she wanted to check something before she went back. Tomorrow, she’d make a small trip to the library.
The next morning, Cirrus, wearing a simple saddlebag, found herself in front of the Ponyville library, a large building that resembled a tree. Or the other way around, she wasn’t sure. If there was any place where she could find out how to help Slatescale communicate a bit more easily, this was it.
She knocked on the door, and a second later, a boyish voice came from within. “Come on in, the door’s open!”
With a small degree of hesitation, Cirrus pushed the door open and stepped in. Predictably, the walls were lined with books in various sizes and colours. There were so many of them, that there was even a ladder to reach the highest books. Although ponies often had trouble with ladders, so that was kind of weird. Aside from that, the room was pretty empty: there was a table, a pedestal for reading and a set of stairs leading up.
Oddly enough, Cirrus couldn’t see the owner of the voice she heard just now. “Um, hello?” She walked around the room, trying to find somepony to help her. She peeked underneath the table in the middle of the room, but there was nothing there.
“Hold on, I’m coming!” the same voice sounded again. Accompanying it was a small, purple dragon with light green scales on his belly and green eyes and frills, who came running down the stairs. He skidded to a halt in front of Cirrus. “How can I help you?” he said, giving a mock salute.
Cirrus blinked a few times in surprise. A baby dragon? She hadn’t expected that, since she never came to the library. “Hello, Mister... I don’t think I got your name?”
“Oh, right,” the dragon said, and chuckled. “I’m Spike!” He held out his claw. “Nice to meet you!”
Cirrus held out her hoof, enabling Spike to grab and shake it. “My name is Cirrus Cloud,” she said. “I’m looking for a book,” she said as Spike let go of her hoof.
“Then you’ve come to the right place,” Spike said, gesturing towards the many books in the room. “We’ve got tons of ‘em! What’re you looking for?”
“I’m looking for a book on words,” Cirrus said. “Do you have any?”
Spike raised an eyebrow. “Words? You mean like a dictionary or something?” His face contorted in confusion.
“No, not like that,” Cirrus said, “I’m looking for, uh... A book on talking.”
“Talking?” Spike asked, and scratched himself on the head. “You mean for kids? Or do you wanna learn another language?”
“Well, no. Not exactly,” Cirrus said. “I’m looking for a book on...” she paused for a few moments, tracing circles in the air with a hoof as she thought. “This?” she said, nodding towards her spinning hoof.
Spike looked at it for a few seconds. “What do circles have to do with talking?”
“I don’t mean circles.” Cirrus sighed and sat down. “I meant more like...” she waved both of her front hooves in the air. “This.”
“Okay, you’ve lost me,” Spike said, staring at Cirrus in disbelief. “What exactly is—” he erratically waved both his arms around, “—this?”
“Sign language?” a voice sounded from above. Cirrus looked up to see a female unicorn’s head looking at the two of them from atop the stairs. Her coat was purple, and so were her eyes, while her mane was a darker shade of purple, with two highlights, one a lighter shade of purple, the other pink.
“Yes, that’s it,” Cirrus said. “I just couldn’t find the word. Thank you, um...”
“Twilight Sparkle,” the mare said, heading down the stairs. “I was busy upstairs, and I overheard you talking. It sounded like you need some help.”
As the unicorn walked down the stairs, Cirrus noticed the pegasus also had wings. No, wait, she was a unicorn, because she had a horn. But she also had wings, which meant... Cirrus gasped loudly. “You’re a princess?!” she shouted, quickly bending forward to bow, nearly slamming her face into the floor. “I’m so sorry, your highness!”
Twilight took a step back and blushed. “J-Just Twilight is fine too. And you don’t have to bow, either.”
Cirrus rose again, but found herself desperately trying to avoid eye contact with the alicorn. Instead, she looked at Spike. “I didn’t know a princess lived in Ponyville.”
Spike raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean, you didn’t know? We’ve been living here for ages, and Twilight’s been a princess for a few months now!”
Cirrus blushed. “I, um... I don’t get out much. Busy schedule?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Twilight said, cutting the subject short. As she walked toward a seemingly random bookcase, she said, “So, you’re looking for a book on sign language, right?” Using her magic, she grabbed a book off the shelves and levitated it towards Cirrus. “Is this what you’re looking for?”
The book’s cover was simple: the title, ‘A Comprehensive Guide to Pony Sign Language’, was printed in large letters, accompanied with pictures of a few simple hoof gestures. However, it wasn’t what Cirrus was looking for. After all, she needed a book suited for a dragon, not for a pony. She looked at Twilight, ready to decline, but thought better of it: who was she to tell a princess that they were wrong? “Um... Yyyeeesss?” Cirrus awkwardly said, adding an exaggerated grin.
Twilight sighed. “It’s okay to say ‘no’ if it’s not the book you need.” She put the book back on its original place, and glanced at the numerous other titles on the same shelf. “So, what is it that you’re looking for, exactly?”
Cirrus blushed fiercely. Maybe lying to a princess wasn’t such a good idea. “Um, I’m looking for a book on sign language for dragons.”
“Dragons?” Spike parroted. “Why would you need a book on sign language for dragons?” He leaned closer to Cirrus, narrowing his eyes at her.
“Um, it’s not really for me, it’s for my friend,” Cirrus said, taking a step back. “The dragon who stays near the Whitetail Woods. His name is Slatescale, and he’s mute.”
Twilight chuckled. “I think I have just the right book.” She levitated another book off the shelf, and presented it to Cirrus. It was roughly the same as the book on pony sign language, but this time, aimed towards dragons.
“Oh, yes!” Cirrus said. “This’ll be perfect! Can I borrow it, please?”
“Of course,” Twilight said. “Feel free!”
Spike rolled his eyes. “This is a library, after all. We don’t have all these books here so only Twilight can read ‘em.
Twilight glared at him. “Just because I’ve read every book in here three times doesn’t mean nopony else has read them! There’s also Rainbow Dash, and... I think Rarity maybe borrowed a romance novel once.” She paused for a moment. “Okay, that’s about everypony who comes here to read, but you get my point.”
Cirrus put a hoof to her mouth to prevent herself from laughing. This kind of conversation sure wasn’t what she expected from a princess. “Thank you very much for your help,” she managed to say after forcing down her laughter. She grabbed the floating book in her mouth and put it in one of her bags.
“I don’t think a big, huge dragon can even read a tiny book like that,” Spike said. “What’re you going to do, give him a really big magnifying glass?”
Cirrus tapped a hoof on her chin. Huh. She hadn’t thought of that yet. “Um... I guess I could read it out loud for him?”
“But it’s all pictures of claw gestures,” Spike said. “You can’t show those with hooves.” He waggled his fingers in demonstration. “You’ll need these babies to do that.”
“Why don’t you go with her, then?” Twilight smirked, using her magic to push Spike towards Cirrus. “You might learn something! And you’ll meet another dragon, too.”
Cirrus quickly took a step back. “Oh, th-that’s not needed, really! I-I can manage just fine on my own! And I’m sure you need Mister Spike here in the library, right?”
“Yeah, I’m your number one assistant, Twilight!” Spike said. “You need me around here!”
“Nonsense,” Twilight said, “I can manage the library just fine. You can assist somepony else for a change!
“But I—” Spike protested, but was cut off by Twilight enveloping both him and Cirrus in her magic and shoving them out the door, closing it shut behind them.
Cirrus stared ahead in confusion for a while, then looked at Spike. “Well, that was, uh... weird.”
Spike sighed. “Tell me about it. I’ve been living with her for ages, but sometimes, she doesn’t make any sense at all.”
“Let’s go meet Slatescale then, Mister Spike. The faster we can show him sign language, the sooner you can go back to the library,” Cirrus said. She didn’t want to keep a princess’ assistant occupied for too long, after all.
“Sure, sure,” Spike said. “And could you stop it with the ‘mister’ thing? It’s kinda creeping me out.” Without waiting for an answer, he headed off towards the Whitetail Woods.
“Oh, of course,” Cirrus said, following after him. “S-Sorry!”
A few minutes later, Cirrus and Spike reached the clearing Slatescale resided at. He currently had his back to the two, and didn’t seem to notice them.
As they neared the giant dragon, Spike paused for a moment. “Whoa. I heard he was big, but this is crazy! He’s huge! Bigger than any dragon I’ve seen!”
“Really?” Cirrus asked, stopping next to Spike. “He’s big, even for a dragon? I thought all dragons were this big. Then again, I’ve only ever met one dragon.”
Spike loudly cleared his throat and glared at Cirrus.
“Oh, um, sorry,” Cirrus gave a very awkward grin. “I meant two dragons.” After a very awkward second or two, she said, “W-We should go say hi to Slatescale.” She quickly walked around the dragon’s huge mass, noticing that he had his eyes closed. “Hello, Slatescale?”
Slatescale’s head twitched slightly, and he briefly scratched it with his claw. However, his eyes didn’t open.
“Sheesh, this guy sleeps more than I do,” Spike said as he joined Cirrus. “It’s the middle of the day!” He stepped forward and poked Slatescale in the cheek.
Slowly, Slatescale’s eyes opened. He blinked wearily and looked around. After a second or two, his eye fixated on Cirrus. Quickly, his head rose up, and he gave a small wave with his claw. Upon spotting Spike, however, he lowered his head again and squinted at the baby dragon. Slatescale slowly rose up again and tilted his head at Cirrus, while pointing at Spike.
“Good morning, Slatescale,” Cirrus said, giving a wave of her own. “I, um, brought somepony with me, if you don’t mind.”
“Hi. The name’s Spike.” The baby dragon extended one of his small claws to the far larger Slatescale.
Slatescale extended one of his massive claws, trying to give Spike a handshake. The difference in size made it very hard for him to safely take hold of Spike’s claw, even when taking things as slowly as possible. After a few seconds of fidgeting, Slatescale decided to ball his claw up into a fist and keep it right in front of Spike.
With a chuckle, Spike gave Slatescale the biggest fist bump of his life. “Hah, awesome!”
Slatescale put his claw back down and looked at Cirrus again. With a curious glance, he pointed at her saddlebag.
“Oh, right, I brought something for you.” Cirrus took the sign language book from her saddlebag and put it on the ground.
Slatescale leaned forward and squinted at the book. He leaned in further and further, until one of his eyes was only a few inches away. After he managed to read the title, he looked at Cirrus and raised an eyebrow.
“I thought it’d be a good idea to learn sign language. You know, when you can’t write to talk to somepony, for some reason,” Cirrus said.
Slatescale looked at the book again, then brought the tips of his thumb and index finger very close to each other.
“I know, it’s a tiny book,” Cirrus said. “But I can help you with that! Um, if you want me to, that is. It’ll be fun! Spike volunteered, too.”
“More like I got volunteered,” Spike grumbled.
Slatescale scratched his chin for a few seconds. Ultimately, he shrugged and nodded.
Cirrus grinned. She had expected more resistance on Slatescale’s end. “Great! Now, let’s see...” She carefully turned the book around, making sure it didn’t get too dirty on the ground. She opened it, and was greeted by a large amount of pictures.
Spike leaned over the book. “Do you even know where to start?”
“Um, no,” Cirrus said, blushing. “I didn’t think we would get this far today. Let’s start with something simple, like... ‘hello’, I guess?” She quickly flipped the pages, trying to find the correct image.
“Hey, wait,” Spike suddenly put his finger on one of the pages. “This sign looks funny. You make a circle with your thumb and index finger,” he said, slowly going through the motions himself. “And then you take your other index finger and put it thr—”
“I don’t think that’s the word we’re looking for!” Cirrus blurted out, her face all red. Quickly, she flipped to another, hopefully more relevant page.
Meanwhile, Slatescale seemed to have an incredibly hard time holding in his laughter, nearly doubling over.
“Oh, look, here it is!” Cirrus said, pointing at the book. “It’s... kind of easy.” She put a hoof to her forehead, then moved it away and up slightly, as if giving a salute. “And there’s a second one, too! It’s... a simple wave.” Huh. That was a lot easier than she thought.
Slatescale mimicked both gestures and grinned.
“One word down, a whole bunch left,” Spike said. He sat down and groaned. “This is gonna take a while.”
A couple of hours and a whole lot of gestures later, Cirrus and Spike headed back home. They were both silent for a while, until Cirrus managed to work up the courage to say something. “I’m sorry you had to waste your afternoon like this, Spike.”
“You don’t have to say sorry,” Spike said with a dismissive wave. “It was kinda fun!”
Cirrus chuckled. “Well, thank you for your help.”
“Don’t mention it,” Spike said. “That’s what friends are for, right?”
“Friends?” Cirrus raised an eyebrow. “You’d say we’re friends?”
“Of course!” Spike said. “I mean, you’re nice, and we had fun, and I wouldn’t mind helping you out again. That makes us friends in my book.”
Cirrus didn’t know what to say. She thought making friends was a lot harder than this, and all of a sudden, she now had two of them. Maybe she had thought about this all wrong in the past. “Um... I guess? I don’t know.” she ultimately said. She needed a bit more time to think this through.
“What do you mean, you don’t know? You have other friends, right?” Spike asked.
Cirrus’ face drooped. “N-Not really.” She sighed. “Slatescale is my first friend.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, stop.” Spike said, putting a claw on Cirrus’ chest to stop her. “You’re living in Ponyville, and Slatescale is your first friend? Aren’t you friends with... I don’t know, Rainbow Dash, or something?”
“I don’t think so,” Cirrus said, taking a step back. “I talked to her a couple of times, but that’s it.”
“Okay then,” Spike said with a strange look of disbelief. “How about Pinkie Pie? Every pony in Ponyville is friends with Pinkie Pie!”
“Well, she did throw me a party once, and she asked me to—” Suddenly, Cirrus’ eyes went wide. “Oh no! I completely forgot!”
Spike raised an eyebrow. “Forgot what?”
“Pinkie Pie wanted to throw a party for Slatescale, and she asked me if I could ask him about the details!” Cirrus sat down and ran her hooves through her mane in panic. “I let her down, and now... and now—”
“Hey, calm down!” Spike said, putting a claw on Cirrus’ shoulder. “Pinkie Pie’s really weird, but she’s also a really good friend. She’ll understand.”
“B-But I’m not even friends with her!” Cirrus stood up and bolted away. “I’m sorry, but I have to go apologize! Bye!” She shouted, heading for where she thought Pinkie Pie would be.
Spike groaned and walked after her. “I’m going to have my claws full on this one.”
Sugarcube Corner was, as usual, abuzz with activity. Many ponies came to the local bakery to buy some delicious goods, ranging from simple cupcakes and donuts to complex, specially made cakes. While most of the customers usually took their baked goods to go, there were a few munching away at one of the tables in the shop.
But it wasn’t the loudest part of the building, not by a long shot. The noisiest room was the kitchen. Well, not usually, but anytime Pinkie Pie was there, it was guaranteed to be noisy, messy, or both. Most often both.
This was one of such times, as Pinkie Pie was rushing around the kitchen, working on baking many types of pastries at the same time. Any other pony would think she was rushing to meet fifteen deadlines at the same time, but for Pinkie Pie, this was her normal speed. In addition, she was humming a merry tune as she slid pastry after pastry into one of the ovens.
However, that was all suddenly interrupted, as a combination of loud crashing and surprised shouts came from within the shop, causing Pinkie to pause. “Huh, that sounds like the kind of noise Pinkie Pie makes,” she said. A sudden realization made her pause for a second. “Hey, wait a minute! I’m Pinkie Pie! Who’s making all that noise?”
She quickly went into the shop, and to her surprise, found a crowd staring at a blue pegasus pony with a single saddlebag, propped up upside-down against the wall of Sugarcube Corner. It seemed like she had entered the room a little bit too fast and crashed, so Pinkie Pie initially thought of Rainbow Dash. This pony, however, had a wispy white mane, and a different cutie mark, one of a rearing, white pegasus. So this had to be...
“C.C.!” she said, rushing up to the dazed pegasus. Pinkie picked her up and put her back on her hooves. “Are you okay?”
Cirrus wobbled about, dazed from her painful slam against the wall. “Wuh-buh,” she managed to mumble. “Is this... Is this Sugarcube Corner?”
“It sure is!” Pinkie said. “What can I get you?”
“I was looking for... uh...” Cirrus stared at Pinkie for a moment. What did she need again? Her head pounded, making it hard to think. “I needed a pie? No, I needed something pink. Pie... Pink... Pinkie Pie!”
“Hey, that’s me!” Pinkie said. “And you found me!”
Cirrus immediately bent forward, holding her front hooves up while leaning on her knees. “Oh, I’m so sorry!” she pleaded. “You wanted me to ask Slatescale about your party and I forgot so now you can’t throw your party please forgive me! Please?”
“What would I have to forgive you for?” Pinkie put Cirrus’ hooves down and helped her up. “You didn’t do anything wrong.”
Cirrus stared at her in disbelief. “B-But I let you down! I didn’t do what I promised!”
“Oh, that?” Pinkie Pie giggled. “That’s not a big deal, silly! I mean come on, who could get an answer out of a big, grumpy dragon that fast? And besides, do you know how long it takes to make a dragon-sized cake? I can’t just pull cakes out of nowhere!” Pinkie suddenly reached somewhere just outside of Cirrus’ vision, then pulled her hoof back, presenting a simple cupcake with pink frosting. “You don’t have to be upset. Want a cupcake?”
Cirrus gave her a wary look, carefully and slowly reaching for the cupcake with a hoof and accepting it. “...Sure?” She eyed the cupcake suspiciously, then looked at Pinkie, who was giving Cirrus a very hopeful stare. Cirrus hesitated for a moment, then took a small bite out of the cupcake.
“There! Feel better?” Pinkie asked, stepping next to Cirrus and throwing a hoof around her neck to give her a quick hug.
Cirrus gave a quick nod as she chewed on her cupcake. She felt a bit better, but also very, very confused. Pinkie Pie was being awfully accepting of her mistake. Plus, where did she get that cupcake from? Cirrus hadn’t seen any when she came in. Then again, she hadn’t exactly taken a very good look around during her high-speed entrance. Oh well, it was probably just standing on a table somewhere. And it’d be kind of rude to question such a tasty cupcake.
Pinkie Pie sniffed the air. “Huh. That cupcake doesn’t smell too good.”
Cirrus held the cupcake up to her nose. No, it smelled like it tasted: very sweet. But there was another scent in the air, one that smelled like something was burning. As Cirrus looked around to locate the source, she saw black smoke coming out of the kitchen. “Uh, were you baking something?”
“Uh oh,” Pinkie said as she rushed into the kitchen. A very loud series of bangs and crashes followed, causing everypony inside the store to flinch.
“Pinkie? Are you okay?” Cirrus said, placing her partially-eaten cupcake on a nearby table and walking towards the kitchen.
Pinkie Pie poked her head out of the doorway. “I’m fine!” she said, her face covered in soot. She coughed a few times, tiny black clouds escaping her mouth. “The cake I was baking is a little burnt, though.”
“I’m sorry,” Cirrus said, awkwardly kicking at the floor. “I shouldn’t have interrupted your baking.”
“Oh, it’s okay, this—” Something in the kitchen exploded, interrupting Pinkie’s sentence. “This isn’t the first time I made a mess.”
Cirrus tried looking over Pinkie’s shoulder, but a cloud of ash suddenly burst from the doorway, obscuring her view and covering her head in grime. She coughed and wiped the ash from her face. “Do you need any help?”
“I can handle it on my own,” Pinkie said. “This isn’t nearly as bad as last time, when I tried making a marble cake. I mean, why call it a marble cake when there aren’t even any marbles in there?”
“Okay then.” Cirrus looked over her shoulder and glanced at her cupcake, still standing where she left it. “Um, how much was that cupcake?”
“You can have it!” Pinkie said. “For free, because you were so upset. And I always give my friends free cupcakes!”
Cirrus blinked a few times at Pinkie in surprise. “Uh, right. Friends. Then I’ll just, um...” She went over to her cupcake. “I’ll just grab this and go.” She picked up the cupcake, but didn’t take a bite yet. “I’ll see you later, then?”
As Cirrus hopped up and flew out of Sugarcube Corner, Pinkie waved after her. “Sure will, C.C.!”
It was then that she noticed all of the shop’s customers giving her various looks of surprise. “Don’t worry, everypony!” Pinkie said. “I’ve got this completely under control!”
Again, something in the kitchen exploded. This time quite violently, as the blast nearly threw Pinkie forward. “Huh, that sounded like the blender. But I didn’t even use that!” She turned around and looked into the kitchen for a second, then turned back to the crowd of customers. “Okay, maybe I don’t have this under control. I guess marble cake isn’t made with marble rock, either.”
That night, Cirrus just couldn’t get to sleep. She tossed and turned in her bed, but remained awake, as she couldn’t help but think about what happened today.
Yesterday, she became friends with Slatescale. And just today, she became friends with Spike and Pinkie Pie! Her little social circle was expanding at an incredible rate. When she left Sugarcube Corner, Cirrus ran into Spike. He didn’t say it outright, but Cirrus was pretty sure he was worried about her. After Cirrus assured him that nothing was wrong, the two of them made plans to spend some more time together. Just thinking about it made her happy.
But maybe she had been looking at this the wrong way? Spike told her that every pony in Ponyville was friends with Pinkie Pie, and she was certainly very nice to Cirrus, even before Slatescale arrived.
Cirrus frowned. This whole time, she thought she didn’t have any friends, but it turns out she just wasn’t paying attention. A friend is a pony, or a dragon, or anything, who you enjoy spending time with, and Cirrus knew a few of those now. Maybe she could talk with Rainbow Dash soon, to see if the two of them were friends. After all, Cirrus really enjoyed having friends, so more friends was always good.
She also shouldn’t forget to thank Pinkie. After all, it was Pinkie who asked her to approach Slatescale, so it was because of Pinkie that Cirrus now had all these friends. Cirrus wondered if Pinkie even knew just how much she had helped.
There was so much to do now, all of a sudden! On top of her job, Cirrus now had sign language to learn and teach, friends to spend time with, and more friends to make. It made her feel all giddy. So giddy, that she still had trouble sleeping. Not because she kept thinking about what happened today, but because of what could happen tomorrow.
The following day, Cirrus joined Slatescale a bit earlier than planned. She had ran out of clouds to sculpt with in the morning, and couldn’t get any more of them until the skies were scheduled to be cleared, which wasn’t for a few more days. It was frustrating, but there wasn’t anything she could do about it.
The two of them weren’t at their usual meeting place. Today, Slatescale had decided to go out for a snack, and had invited Cirrus to join him. As of now, they were casually strolling on one of the barren patches of land just outside Ponyville. Well, Slatescale was strolling, Cirrus had to put in quite some effort to match the speed of the enormous dragon.
Every now and then, Slatescale paused to sniff around, sometimes pulling a heap of dirt out of the ground to sift through. Almost every clawful yielded a sizeable amount of gems, ready for the dragon to eat.
All the while, Cirrus had been babbling at him. “Yesterday was just... It was just so much fun!” she gushed. “I know I said that a few times already, but I met Spike, and I got to spend time and do fun things together with you, and then it was kind of scary and bad when I realized I didn’t do what I told Pinkie I would do, but then she told me it was okay, and then it was really fun again!”
Slatescale nodded and gave a quick smile, then bent forward to sniff the ground. Once more, he dug a hole, then carefully pulled all of the gems from the clod he was holding, then dumped the dirt back on the ground. He immediately threw the numerous gems into his mouth, swallowing them without even chewing.
“Uh, I’m not boring you or anything, am I?” Cirrus asked. She never rambled on like this, except when she was nervous. Or she did, and she just couldn’t remember the last time. She looked around awkwardly. She could stop talking, but aside from walking with Slatescale, there wasn’t anything to do on this barren waste.
Slatescale shook his head and wrote something on the ground. ‘STILL HUNGRY, VERY FOCUSED’. Even though they had started on sign language, there wasn’t anything he could say except for short, one-word messages like greetings or farewells.
“Oh, good,” Cirrus said. Even though this was simply a walk, she was really enjoying herself. Probably because she would normally sit at home and be bored. No, this was much better.
The two of them continued walking, with Slatescale digging up some gems every now and then, and Cirrus talking to him about this and that, receiving short gestures in reply all the while.
However, a voice called out to them after a little while. “Hello-oo~!” It came from somewhere behind them, so Cirrus turned around, while Slatescale merely turned his head.
A little bit off in the distance, they could see a pony walking in their direction. It was a little difficult to tell, but it was a unicorn mare with a white coat and her mane and tail were purple, and very intricately curled. As she came closer, Cirrus was able to see that the mare’s eyes were blue, and she was wearing a set of saddlebags with gem-themed clasps. “Good afternoon!” the mare said, coming to a halt in front of the two. “Goodness, I’ve never seen an adult dragon here!” She stared at Slatescale for a while before turning to Cirrus. “What brings you here today?”
“Hello,” Cirrus said. “Me and Slatescale were just walking here, looking for gems. Uh, my name is Cirrus Cloud.” She gave an awkward smile, as she hadn’t expected to meet another pony here, so she hadn’t prepared herself.
“My name is Rarity. It’s a pleasure to meet you! Say, I wanted to ask you something.” She gestured towards her saddlebags. “I’ve been out here, looking for gems for a while, but I’m having trouble finding some. Is it okay if I join you two?”
Cirrus looked at Slatescale, who gave a short shrug in return. “Sure,” she said, turning back to Rarity. “I don’t see why not. It’ll be fun, right?”
Slatescale briefly held his nose to the ground again to smell for gems, then continued on his way, this time followed by both Cirrus and Rarity.
“I hope I can find enough gems today,” Rarity said. “I’ve been using my gem-finding spell all morning, but there aren’t any on my usual route!”
“Sorry,” Cirrus said, blushing slightly. “I think Slatescale dug them all up. He was really hungry, so we’re looking for some for him to eat.”
Slatescale grabbed another patch of ground, sifting all the gems out once again. This time, he carefully handed a few over to Rarity, before eating the rest himself.
“Thank you!” Rarity levitated the gems into her saddlebags. “Ah, but I can hardly complain. Dragons need to eat, after all!” She briefly turned to Cirrus, keeping her voice low. “Your friend doesn’t talk very much, though.”
“Um, that’s because he’s mute,” Cirrus mumbled awkwardly.
“Mute?” Rarity repeated. “Oh! I’m sorry!” she said, eyes widening in surprise. “How rude of me.”
“Oh, I don’t think Slatescale minds,” Cirrus said, looking at the large dragon, who craned his head backward and shook it. “See? He might be big, and all scaley and spiky, but he’s a lot nicer than he looks.”
Rarity accepted another hoofful of gems from Slatescale, tucking them away in her saddlebags once again. “Yes, you’re right. I haven’t met a lot of dragons who would part with their precious gems so easily. In fact, I think I’ve only ever seen one! A young purple dragon who lives in town. Maybe you’ve seen him?”
Cirrus nodded eagerly. “You mean Spike, right? Yes, yes, I know him!” A grin slowly crept onto her face. “I met him yesterday, when I went to the library, and he was really nice to me, and he’s helping me teach Slatescale sign language! Oh, and did you know he lives together with a princess?!”
Rarity raised an eyebrow. “Yes, that is correct. Twilight has been living here for quite a while, though. You didn’t know?”
Cirrus gave an embarrassed blush. “Um, no. I don’t get out much unless it’s related to work.”
“Really now? What kind of work do you do?” Rarity asked. “I haven’t seen you around much, so I’m afraid I can’t tell.”
“I sculpt clouds,” Cirrus said. “You get short-lived, yet cheap little sculptures out of it, but they’re only popular among pegasi, since they’re the only ones who can touch them.”
“My, an artist!” Rarity’s eyes lit up as she spoke. “I think we’ll be able to get along just fine, darling. I’d love to see some of your work!”
Cirrus sighed. “I’m sorry, but my shop is empty right now, and I can’t make any more. I’m all out of clouds.”
Rarity looked up and pointed at the clouds above. “Can’t you use some of those?”
Cirrus shook her head. “No, those are part of the scheduled weather. I can’t grab any until the sky is supposed to be cleared, which isn’t for... another week, I think.”
“Oh. What a shame,” Rarity said. She tapped a hoof on her chin for a few seconds. “Is it okay if I come by some other time, then?”
Cirrus nodded. “Sure, that’s fine. I—” Suddenly, Rarity used her magic to yank Cirrus to the side. “Whoa! Hey!” she said, as she heard a soft thud behind her. Turning around to see what it was, she saw a rock embedded in the ground where she stood not a second before.
Rarity breathed a sigh of relief. “That was a bit too close. Are you alright?”
“I-I, yes, I think,” Cirrus said, turning back to Rarity. “What happened?” She briefly glanced at the rock behind her. “Did Slatescale drop that?”
Slatescale, who was currently sifting through a huge pile of dirt, looked down at the two ponies. His eyes widened and he dropped the gems he was holding, quickly bending down and keeping his head as low to the ground as possible, looking at Cirrus intently. His claw hovered in the air near her, twitching slightly, as he seemed to be at a loss for a few seconds. Very carefully, he used a finger to remove some dirt from Cirrus’ mane. He gave her a pleading look, biting his lower lip and having trouble keeping his claw still, repeatedly putting it down and lifting it up.
“I-I’m okay, Slatescale,” Cirrus said. “It was an accident. Thank goodness Miss Rarity was keeping an eye out.”
Slatescale turned back to his little pile of gems and picked it up, this time depositing it in front of Rarity and shoving it towards her. For the dragon, it was a small clawful of gems, but to the much smaller pony, the pile could fill both of her saddlebags twice.
“You’re giving all this to me?” Rarity asked. “Weren’t you going to eat those?”
Slatescale shook his head and nudged the pile of gems again.
“Well, if you insist,” Rarity said, though there was a subtle, excited glint in her eyes. She levitated the better part of the pile of gems and put it in her saddlebags, filling them to the brim. “Thank you very much for your generosity. Though I do suggest you try to be a little more careful in the future.”
Slatescale nodded quickly, then nudged the remainder of the gems towards Cirrus.
Cirrus stared at the pile for a while, then gasped. “Oh! I-I can’t take that many gems! That’s a fortune!”
Slatescale looked at the small pile again, then carefully grabbed a single gem and dropped it in front of Cirrus. It was a small and rough, but rather beautiful sapphire.
Cirrus hesitantly picked it up. “Um, I’ll just take this one then. B-But you really didn’t have to. Accidents happen.”
“Then see it as a gift!” Rarity said. “He’s obviously very fond of you.” Slatescale nodded in agreement.
Cirrus stared at the sapphire for a few seconds, then looked at Slatescale. “N-Nopony’s ever given me something like this before,” she said, a blush starting to creep onto her cheeks. “Thank you.”
With a very large smile, Slatescale picked up the remainder of the gems and put them down right where he found them, covering up the hole in the ground with some dirt.
“Don’t you want to hang on to that, for later?” Cirrus asked. “You know, for your hoard?”
Slatescale turned back to her, his smile gone, and shook his head. He even grimaced slightly, and it looked like his eyes were becoming watery. He quickly stepped over Cirrus and Rarity, heading back the way they came.
Cirrus looked at Rarity and raised an eyebrow. “Did I say something wrong?”
Rarity shrugged. “I wouldn’t know. Maybe you could ask him. No sense in wondering!” With that, she followed after Slatescale.
Cirrus stayed behind for a while, staring at her gem. Slatescale was obviously upset about something, and became upset right when she mentioned his hoard. Speaking of which, weren’t dragons supposed to be extremely protective of theirs? A big dragon like Slatescale was bound to have a gigantic hoard, but he didn’t have a single bit. If he did, he wouldn’t need to go out and scavenge for gems like he did today.
She hopped up and flew after Rarity and Slatescale, catching up after a little while. She talked with Rarity all the way home, but she couldn’t focus on their conversation all the time. She needed to find a way to cheer Slatescale up, to help him. He had brightened up Cirrus’ life immensely in the past few days, while she hadn’t been able to do anything for him in return.
But now, she could help him out. She just had to figure out what the problem was, and how she could be of use.
Cirrus stared at the sapphire that was currently resting on her workbench. She didn’t have any work to do, so she decided to use her morning to think about how she could help Slatescale.
All Cirrus knew was that it had something to do with his hoard, and that whatever had happened, it must’ve been very painful for him. Else, he wouldn’t go from happy to sad in less than ten seconds the moment it was mentioned. Now, she just had to find out exactly what had happened.
Today, Spike would be joining the two of them again, to help teach Slatescale sign language. Maybe Cirrus could ask him for advice. After all, Spike was a dragon as well, so he probably knew a whole lot more about them than Cirrus did.
Cirrus’ stare intensified as she wondered just what could’ve happened. Slatescale is big, and a bit scary. Okay, really big, and to anypony who didn’t know him, he was probably really scary. Cirrus was terrified of him at first. His hoard couldn’t have been stolen from him, because you’d have to be crazy to try doing that.
Maybe Slatescale had to give his hoard up for something else. Something that was more important to him. No, that wasn’t right. Slatescale mentioned that he didn’t have any friends before meeting Cirrus, and she couldn’t think of anything else that a dragon would sacrifice their hoard for. It’s the single most important thing to them, and Cirrus had never heard of a dragon parting with their hoard for whatever reason.
It had to be something else, then. He could’ve lost his hoard in a freak accident. Maybe he had unknowingly stored it in an active volcano, and when it erupted, every single bit was lost.
No, that sounded absolutely ridiculous. Slatescale is much smarter than that.
Maybe Slatescale was actually the immortal protector of Equestria, and he didn’t so much have a hoard as that he was really guarding the most powerful artifacts in the world, and then, aliens disguised as ponies came and stole all of them, so Slatescale had followed them to the nearest pony settlement and—
No, that sounded absolutely ridiculous.
Cirrus sighed. She really needed to do some work or she’d drive herself crazy. She forced herself to stop thinking about Slatescale’s hoard, as she wouldn’t be able to get anywhere with simple guessing.
There was a knocking at the door. A very impatient knocking. Whoever it was, they’d probably been there for a while, as Cirrus had been so occupied with her thoughts that she hadn’t noticed the loud pounding. She quickly went over and opened the door.
On the other side was Rainbow Dash. “Hey C.C.!”
Cirrus raised an eyebrow. “Good morning, Miss Rainbow Dash. How can I help you?”
“Oh, you don’t have to help me with anything,” Rainbow Dash said. “I, uh...” She rubbed the back of her head with a hoof for a few seconds. “I came to say sorry.”
Cirrus raised her eyebrow even further. “To say sorry? What for?”
“I heard you couldn’t do any work because you were out of clouds.” Rainbow Dash awkwardly kicked at the ground. “I guess I felt a little responsible. You know, because I borrowed a few clouds from you. I really should’ve been a bit more considerate.”
Cirrus blinked a few times. Right, Rainbow Dash had borrowed a few clouds from her three days ago. While it had kept her out of business, it was nothing she couldn’t recover from. But how did Rainbow Dash know about that? “Did Miss Rarity tell you?”
Rainbow Dash nodded. “I talked to her yesterday, and she told me about you. I felt kinda bad for taking your clouds, so I brought you something.” She pointed up, prompting Cirrus to peek outside.
Hovering slightly above the house were a lot of clouds, in several different types. A few normal, white clouds, a few rainclouds, a few storm clouds, and one particularly volatile-looking cloud. Cirrus quickly counted them all, then gasped. “B-But this is way too much! You didn’t borrow this many! A-And I thought you needed these for the weather for the coming week?!”
“Don’t worry about that,” Rainbow Dash said. “I got you everything I borrowed from you, plus a little extra. And the weather is still fine. I went all over town to see if we could spare any clouds, so here you go!” She flew up and grabbed one of the white clouds. “Need some help putting these away?”
“Um, I, uh...” Cirrus stuttered. Her jaw flapped up and down uselessly a few times. “N-No, I can manage on my own.” She looked up at the clouds again. Stuffing them all in her shed would take a while. Plus, she wasn’t even sure if it’d fit!
“Cool!” Rainbow Dash jumped up, hovering in the air. “If you’re ever in trouble again, you know where to find me. See ya later!” With that, she sped off, leaving a still bewildered Cirrus behind.
It took Cirrus a few moments to recover from the shock, but when she did, she shouted “Thank you!” Though it was unlikely that Rainbow Dash even heard her. Cirrus would have to make absolutely sure to thank Rainbow Dash properly sometime soon.
Cirrus flew up, grabbing one of the clouds at random and pushing it towards her shed. She could get to work again! Her list of ponies to thank was growing at an incredible rate, too. Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Cirrus probably had to thank Rarity as well, for telling Rainbow Dash about the situation.
As she put more and more clouds into her shed, something odd occurred to Cirrus. Rainbow Dash had put in a lot of effort to apologize. Rarity might have had some influence on that, though. But Cirrus didn’t feel like it the apology was necessary. After all, the weather was more important than her sculpting, so she didn’t mind helping out in a tight spot.
However, the last time Cirrus apologized to somepony was when she visited Pinkie Pie two days earlier, who had told her that an apology wasn’t necessary, either. Maybe ponies tended to exaggerate when they thought they owed somepony something. Cirrus chuckled to herself. She should apologize a little less in the future.
After a few minutes, Cirrus only had one cloud left to stash away. The really volatile one. She hadn’t ever seen a cloud as black as this, and even lightly touching it with a hoof caused little sparks to jump from it. Dangerous, and definitely not fit to use in any normal sculpture. She had to find out what to do with this some other time.
Cirrus spent the following afternoon as planned: learning sign language, together with Spike and Slatescale. Everything had gone off without a hitch, and they were making some progress on learning the alphabet. After a few hours, it was getting harder to concentrate, so they decided to put the book away and call it quits for now.
While Cirrus and Spike were talking about various things, with Slatescale listening, Cirrus decided now was as good a time as any. “Hey, Slatescale? Where did you live before coming here?”
Slatescale raised an eyebrow at her.
“You know, uh...” Cirrus mumbled. “I’m just curious.” She fidgeted nervously. She really didn’t want to accidentally upset Slatescale again.
Slatescale raised his head, looking northward and scanning the horizon. After a few seconds, he pointed at a mountain. It was a pretty large one, but not particularly high. Only the very top was covered in snow.
“Huh,” Spike said. “That’s pretty close to the mountain Twilight and the others went to one time.” He pointed at another mountain, this one much higher. “A big, red dragon lived there. You know him, Slatescale?”
Slatescale shook his head.
“So, you lived in a cave there?” Cirrus asked. “I bet it was really high up.”
Slatescale answered her first question with a slow nod, then scratched his chin for a few seconds. He then stuck his claw out and twisted it around a little, giving a shrug.
“So, not all that high,” Cirrus said. “Maybe you can show it to us sometime?”
Slatescale reeled back for a second, frantically shaking his head. He quickly wrote something in the ground: ‘NEVER GO THERE’.
“What? Why?” Cirrus asked. “It’s just your home, right?”
Slatescale wrote something in the ground again, then narrowed his eyes and gave Cirrus a stern glare. ‘PROMISE’.
“Um...” Cirrus stared at the message for a while. “O-Okay. I won’t go to your cave, then.”
Slatescale shook his head, then underlined the word ‘PROMISE’.
“I promise!” Cirrus said. “I promise I won’t go to your home. I’m sorry I mentioned it.”
“Wow,” Spike said. “You take this seriously, huh, Slatescale?”
Slatescale nodded, then wrote something again. ‘TOO DANGEROUS’.
Spike looked at Cirrus and raised an eyebrow. “Good to know, I guess.” He looked up for a little while. “Geez, we’ve been here for a while, huh?” he said, pointing at the sun. “It’s getting pretty late, I should head back to the library. Twilight is gonna turn me into a purple saddlebag if I don’t get back soon.”
Cirrus grimaced. She wouldn’t put it past a princess to be capable of that. “You know, I should head home, too. I have some work to catch up on.” She made sure her saddlebag, containing the book on sign language, was tightly secured. “I’ll come visit you again tomorrow, Slatescale!”
The three of them quickly said and waved their goodbyes before Cirrus and Spike headed back home.
When she was absolutely sure Slatescale couldn’t hear them, Cirrus spoke up. “Hey, Spike. What do you think is in Slatescale’s home?”
Spike shrugged. “I dunno. Whatever it is, I bet it’s really bad. I mean, Slatescale is a huge dragon, and even he doesn’t go back there!”
Cirrus craned her head backwards, seeing the mountains in the distance. “Still, I’m curious. If it’s that bad, he must’ve lost a whole lot. I want to help him get it back.”
“I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” Spike said. “It’s his home we’re talking about here, and he made you promise not to go. You can expect dragons to be serious about that kind of stuff. Trust me, I know.”
“Yeah, I get it,” Cirrus said with a sigh. “I promised, and that’s that.”
A few minutes later, the two of them reached Ponyville. Getting home was straightforward from here, but Cirrus had other plans. “Hey, Spike? You go on ahead. I, uh... I need to get some stuff.”
Spike paused and raised an eyebrow. “Stuff? What kind of stuff do you need?”
“I, uh, I need, uh...” Cirrus stuttered. “I need to get some work-related stuff. Yeah, some things for cloud sculpting!”
Spike crossed his arms. “What kind of stuff could you possibly need for cloud sculpting, except your hooves and a few clouds?”
Cirrus bit her lip. “Uh, you know, lots of stuff! Very complicated. I’ll tell you some other time, okay?”
“Riiight,” Spike said, narrowing his eyes and slowly turning around, heading towards the library. “See you later.”
After Spike was gone, Cirrus breathed a sigh of relief. That was close. She couldn’t let Spike catch on to her plan, one that she really didn’t like: she was going to have to break her promise. And to do that, some supplies were in order.
Cirrus stared at the map in front of her. It was a rather simple thing, detailing the area around Ponyville. It had a few simple drawings of houses, trees, mountains, and most important, roads. That was all Cirrus needed. Though it failed to tell her one thing.
She looked up at the mountain in front of her, then back at the map. “Wow,” she mumbled. “It seemed smaller from a distance. And on the map.” When Slatescale had pointed at the mountain yesterday, it didn’t seem all that big. Only the very tip was covered in snow, so it couldn’t have been that high. Now that Cirrus found herself in front of it, though, the term ‘mountain’ was appropriate.
With a sigh, Cirrus rolled up the map and put it back in her saddlebag, together with her other supplies. It was a good thing she came prepared: the weather wasn’t looking good enough to fly up. Strong winds blew at the foot of the mountain, and it’d only get worse at greater heights. Not that Cirrus had enough confidence in herself to fly up in even the best conditions, anyway.
If there were any caves on this mountain, Cirrus couldn’t see them. She narrowed her eyes, trying to see if there was even a visible path leading up, but no such luck. With an annoyed huff, Cirrus wiped a few strands of mane out of her face. Better get started right away.
One particular rock formation seemed promising. A pile of small rocks, easy to climb on, and if needed, Cirrus could use her wings for a small boost. Carefully, she hopped onto one rock, then to a second one, and so on, gaining a little bit of height with each jump. Some rocks were loose, teetering and wobbling when Cirrus jumped on top of them. Coupled with the harsh winds, this made it difficult for her to keep her balance.
After a little while, a rough path appeared. Well, it wasn’t so much a path as it was a solid, narrow bit of rock, covered in cracks. While this made it a lot easier to get up, the rocks were covered in slippery moss, so Cirrus still had to watch her step.
She paused for a moment, hazarding a look down. She hadn’t reached a dazzling height just yet. About four times her house, tops, meaning there was still a ways to go. Not exactly an altitude Cirrus wasn’t a stranger too, either, as she’d been far higher than this before.
It was going to be a long, tough climb, but it’d be worth it. Slatescale had already done so much for Cirrus, it was only natural she’d somehow repay him. Whatever was in that cave, Cirrus was more than willing to brave it all on her own, even though she didn’t have the slightest clue as to what it was.
What did Slatescale’s hoard even look like? If he left it behind for some reason, it couldn’t be that big. Cirrus only had a vague idea of what a dragon’s hoard looked like. Sure, it was a pile of gold, gems, jewelry and other valuables, but she hadn’t ever seen one herself. They were supposed to be beautiful, and Slatescale’s hoard would surely be a special sight, large or not.
The higher Cirrus came, the more the wind picked up. After walking for a few minutes, then climbing up another pile of rocks, she still couldn’t see any caves. By now, the wind was so harsh that Cirrus couldn’t even look straight ahead in the headwind. It wasn’t doing her balance any favours, either. To make matters worse, she was starting to get tired and hungry.
Luckily, she came prepared. Every now and then, there’d be little recesses in the rocks, and though they were small, Cirrus managed to stay out of the wind if she pressed herself against the cold walls. Not entirely safe, and very cramped, but at least she could catch her breath.
She took off her saddlebags and rummaged through them, pulling out a simple daffodil sandwich. It wasn’t the best thing ever, but when you’re climbing a mountain, everything tastes great. And it wasn’t as if you could get a grand view of Equestria with every meal!
As Cirrus eagerly stuffed the sandwich down, she took a moment to enjoy said view. This was the highest she’d ever been, but she wished she’d gone this far up earlier. Far down, somewhat close to the mountain, lay the Whitetail Wood. Slatescale wasn’t visible from up here. Good, because if Cirrus could see Slatescale, Slatescale could see Cirrus. And if he saw her, he’d probably get really mad. She promised she wouldn’t go to his cave, after all.
Cirrus sighed. She felt awful for breaking her promise. Hopefully, Slatescale wouldn’t be mad at her. Desperate times called for desperate measures, however. Though it wasn’t really desperate right now, as Slatescale was doing just fine. Cirrus just really wanted to do something for him in return, and this was the perfect opportunity.
After finishing her sandwich, Cirrus left her little hidey hole and continued climbing. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be too much farther. It was starting to get pretty cold, and that would only get worse the further up Cirrus got.
A few minutes later, Cirrus reached a plateau. It was a completely barren surface, with pebbles and small rocks here and there. Far more important, however, was the mouth of a very large cave, big enough for a large dragon to live in.
Cirrus eagerly went over to the entrance. This must be Slatescale’s cave! It was big enough for him to fit in, and the insides were just... Cirrus couldn’t find a word to describe it.
Piles upon piles of gold coins, gems, jewelry and other random valuables, like small statues and paintings, littered the floor of the cave. While the treasures didn’t pile towards the ceiling, there was more than enough that almost the entire floor was covered in coins. There wasn’t even a path leading between them, as some piles were large enough to spill over into one another. The other end of the cave wasn’t even visible, obscured by the large amounts of treasure.
Awestruck, Cirrus headed in. She hadn’t ever seen this much wealth in one place! The coins shone and twinkled in the sunlight that was spilling into the cave, creating a mesmerizing view. Slatescale must’ve had a very good reason to leave all of this behind, but Cirrus couldn’t see it yet.
After walking and climbing over a few piles of treasure, Cirrus could see what looked like a massive bed of coins, and on top of it, an enormous creature. It was a greenish-brown mass of scales, with the large wings on its back turned to the tiny pegasus. Its chest rose and fell slowly, and its long tail occasionally twitched a little.
Carefully, Cirrus approached it. It wasn’t as big as Slatescale, but still enormous. Chances were, this is what Slatescale warned her about. “Um, hello?” she said, but there was no reaction. “Mister dragon?”
A low, rumbling sigh erupted from the beast. “Dragon?” it said, its voice grunting and venomous. “Is that what you ignorant creatures call us now?” It stood up and turned around, revealing that it wasn’t exactly a dragon.
To start with, the creature had no front arms, just a single pair of large, sturdy legs. It stood hunched forward, its massive head, covered in spikes and jagged scales, jutting forward. Its wings were large and outstretched, presumably so the creature could keep its balance. Its tail was very long, continuously moving around and flicking from left to right. The tail’s tip had a very large, cruel barb, and Cirrus shivered trying to imagine what purpose it had.
“S-So, you’re not a d-dragon?” Cirrus asked.
“Not at all, little pony.” The creature stepped down from its gold pile, the coins clinking between its claws. “I am a wyvern. Surely you must have heard some of the stories.”
Cirrus shook her head. “N-No. I’ve heard of wyverns before, b-but never any stories.”
“A shame,” the wyvern said. He leaned leaned forward, almost coming face to face with Cirrus. “You would be doing a lot more than just stuttering if you did.” It gave a big grin. One with large, very pointy-looking teeth.
Cirrus’ legs suddenly felt very weak, which may have something to do with the fact that they were wobbling uncontrollably at the moment. She tried saying something, anything, but only managed to utter a soft squeak.
The wyvern chuckled. “That’s more like it. Now then, little pony, what possessed you to come here?”
“U-Um, I, I came hoard— I mean, here,” Cirrus stuttered, “because my f-friend, Slatescale, said his h-home was here.”
“Slatescale?” The wyvern said. “I’ve never heard of him, or her.”
“R-Really?” Cirrus said. “He’s a big, black dragon. With red spines.”
“Ah, yes, I do know a dragon like that.” The wyvern walked around Cirrus, placing itself in between her and the exit. “This cave was his, after all.” It sniffed a pile of gold, then chomped down on it, taking a huge bite out of the pile. Hundreds of coins fell from the top, spilling down onto the floor as the wyvern effortlessly chewed and swallowed the hard metal.
Cirrus slowly turned around. “I-If it’s not too much trouble, could you give it back to him?”
The wyvern stared at her for a few moments. At first, it only chuckled a little. It paused for another moment, then burst into full-out laughter, throwing its head back and nearly falling over. “You can’t, heh,” it said, trying to catch its breath, “you can’t be serious.”
“I am serious!” Cirrus shouted. “He’s feeling really bad about it, so please give him his home back!”
“No.” The wyvern snarled. “You’re ridiculous. I took it from him, fair and square. He has no right to live here.”
“Fair and square? No way!” Cirrus said. “He’s much larger than you! I bet he could mop the floor with you any day of the week!”
“Oh, I know that,” the wyvern said. He gave a large, toothy smirk. “But not all battles are fought with brawn. Your friend, for example, can not talk. I’m sure you’ve noticed. It was just a matter of pushing the right buttons. Do you know how shameful it is for a dragon to be incapable of a mighty roar?”
The wyvern threw his head back, unleashing a massive roar into the cave. The sheer volume caused the ground to shake, and the piles of coins to vibrate and shift. Cirrus had to quickly plug her ears with her hooves to avoid her eardrums from tearing.
“Just like that,” the wyvern said. “Your friend took off with his tail between his legs, leaving his hoard to me.”
Cirrus snorted. What a jerk! “We’ll see about that! I’ll get Slatescale, and I’m sure he’ll win back his home!”
“But you’re such a beautiful little gem.” The wyvern tried brushing Cirrus’ cheek with the tip of its wing, but Cirrus turned away in disgust. “It would be so much better if you stayed here, as part of my hoard. Safe, and away from that brute.”
“No way,” Cirrus said. “I’m going home, to my friends. Far away from you!”
As she tried walking around the wyvern and out of the cave, the massive creature blocked her path by stepping front of her. “I don’t think I made myself clear. That was not a question.” The wyvern snarled. “You’re staying here.”
Aghast, Cirrus took a few steps back. Suddenly, she was aware of the fact that it might just have been a very, very bad idea to come here.
Slatescale tapped his fingers on the ground, creating small grooves. He looked up at the sun. It was already late in the afternoon, and Cirrus wasn’t here yet. She said she’d visit him today, and she wasn’t one to arrive late. Where could she be?
Maybe she was already here, and Slatescale just hadn’t noticed her. He stood up and turned in a circle, scanning the clearing, but there was no little blue pegasus around. With a disappointed sigh, he sat back down.
Cirrus was probably just working. She said she obtained a whole bunch of clouds yesterday, so she might have forgotten about the time. That wasn’t very likely, though, Slatescale reckoned. Going from what Cirrus told him, she got very upset over failing to deliver on a promise, so she would get upset if she failed to show up on time.
No, it must’ve been something else. Maybe she got hold up by one of her new friends. That sounded plausible, though Slatescale couldn’t imagine what any pony would want from Cirrus right now. And even then, that’d only take a few minutes, and Cirrus was already hours late.
Maybe some sort of freak accident happened. Cirrus had been so eager to visit him that she forgot to look both ways when she crossed the street, and got hit by a cart, or something.
No, that sounded silly. Cirrus was more careful than that.
Or perhaps Cirrus was really the immortal protector of Equestria, and she didn’t really make cloud sculptures, but created and guarded incredibly important artifacts, and they were stolen from her by aliens disguised as ponies, and she had embarked on a quest to—
No, that sounded silly. Slatescale really needed to overthink things less. Then again, suddenly feeling lonely does that to a dragon. He’d spent years upon years all alone before, but now that he’d spent a few days in the company of Cirrus, it was actually quite nice to have a friend around.
Well, if Cirrus wasn’t coming to Slatescale, then maybe Slatescale could go to Cirrus! That wouldn’t be too hard. He knew where she lived: in Ponyville. Somewhere. It’d be hard to maneuver in between the small buildings, but he’d take care of that detail once he got there.
Slatescale got up and headed in the direction of Ponyville. What he thought was the direction of Ponyville, at least. He’d never been there, but Cirrus always went this way when she left. Once there, he’d have to ask some pony to help him find Cirrus’ house.
It didn’t take Slatescale very long to reach the small town, only a couple of minutes. Distances don’t matter very much when you’re a large dragon, after all. Now came the hard part: actually finding Cirrus’ house, as Slatescale had no idea where that was. Cirrus never mentioned on what street she lived.
Looking down, Slatescale could see a few ponies looking up at him and muttering against each other. Cirrus wasn’t among them, though. Since Slatescale had to get started somehow, he might as well ask these ponies if they knew where Cirrus lived. He gave the ponies below a short wave.
The ponies all screamed and ran away.
Slatescale rolled his eyes. Okay, he should’ve seen that coming. On the bright side, causing a ruckus was sure to attract at least one pony willing to talk to him.
It didn’t take very long for a blue pegasus to fly up to his face. But it wasn’t Cirrus. This one had a rainbow-coloured mane, so this was probably Rainbow Dash, a pony Cirrus told Slatescale about. “Hey big guy, what’re you doing here?” she asked.
Slatescale looked around for some suitable ground to write on, but there wasn’t any nearby. He could raze a few houses, but he got the feeling that the residents of said houses wouldn’t appreciate it. That left only one means of communication: sign language.
Sadly, Slatescale barely knew any. He’d only gone through two sessions together with Cirrus and Spike, so he only knew a few gestures, none of which were helpful right now. Well, except for one.
Slatescale briefly waved at Rainbow Dash. Now, he just had to answer her question, which was easier said than done. He scratched himself on the head, trying to think of a way to properly communicate.
“Uh, you don’t know?” Rainbow Dash asked. “You just came here while taking a walk?”
Slatescale shook his head. Okay, he just had to use the alphabet, then. He knew how to make an A, a claw with fingers closed, and B, an outstretched claw... but just when he needed it most, he couldn’t remember how to illustrate the letter C.
Slatescale scratched himself on the head again, this time touching one of his spines. That gave him an idea, so it was time for some improv. He grabbed two of his spines with his claws and bent them down, one on each side of his face.
Rainbow Dash gave him an incredibly confused look. “I have no idea what you’re trying to say.” She looked around, but as far as she could see, all other ponies were in hiding. “Look, I’ll just get Cirrus for you, okay?”
She immediately took off, heading straight into Ponyville. Eagerly, yet making sure he was putting his claws down where there was enough space, Slatescale followed after her.
After a few seconds, Rainbow looked back. “Whoa, hey!” she shouted, turning around. “You can’t just stomp through town like that. You’re gonna get stuck!”
She was right, Slatescale noticed as he looked down. It was quite difficult to fit himself in one street without knocking anything down, and turning around would be even harder. Carefully, Slatescale walked in reverse, back to the edge of town.
Rainbow Dash followed him, occasionally helping him find a good place to put a claw down. When the two of them were back where they started, she flew up to Slatescale’s head again. “Just stay put right here, okay? I’ll get Cirrus to come with me.”
Slatescale shook his head. No, he wanted to see Cirrus as quickly as possible, so he wanted to visit her house. He pointed along the edge of town, drawing half a circle in the air.
“Fine,” Rainbow Dash said with a groan. “I’ll take you to her house. But be careful, okay? And watch the tail.” She flew off again, this time following Ponyville’s border.
Slatescale nodded and followed her. Rainbow Dash kept up with his pace surprisingly well, able to fly at a decent speed without any trouble. It took the two of them barely a minute to get a quarter of the way around Ponyville, where Rainbow Dash landed.
“Okay, here it is,” she said, walking up to a house on the very edge of the town. The house itself was rather small, but there was some sort of extra building connected on the side, and a rather large shed out back.
Rainbow Dash knocked on the door, but there was no answer. She tried knocking again, and again, but the door never opened. “Huh. Is she even home?” Rainbow knocked again, this time very loudly, but still nothing.
Slatescale bent down, looking inside the house via one of the windows on the top floor. There was a simple bed, a closet, a mirror with some grooming essentials on a table next to it, and some random decorations. Mostly small paintings of the countryside and pictures of cloud sculptures.
Looking through one of the windows on the lower floor, Slatescale could see a couch, a dining table, a few doors leading somewhere else, and pretty much the same knickknacks as the top floor. But no Cirrus.
“I don’t think she’s here,” Rainbow Dash said. “Weird. She almost never leaves her house.”
Slatescale gave a short shrug and frantically looked from side to side. Cirrus had to be somewhere nearby, right? She couldn’t have just disappeared! Where could she possibly be?
Rainbow Dash flew up to Slatescale’s face, holding his nose with her hooves. “Whoa, buddy, chill out. You don’t have to panic because she’s not at home. Maybe somepony else knows where she is.”
Panic? Slatescale didn’t feel like he was panicking. He was merely really, really concerned. The thought to take off and do an aerial sweep of the area did occur to him, though. Rainbow Dash’s idea seemed far better, since the list of ponies Cirrus knew was quite limited. She mentioned a Pinkie Pie, and Rarity joined Slatescale and her when they were looking for gems, and that was pretty much it.
But it wasn’t just limited to ponies, since Cirrus was also friends with Spike. And Spike went back to Ponyville together with her just the day before, so he was likely the last one to have seen her! He was probably Slatescale’s best bet to find Cirrus.
He just had to find out how to tell Rainbow Dash about this. Again, he had no idea how to express himself in sign language, so he had to improvise. He pulled his head back a little, pointed at himself, then brought his index finger and thumb close to one another.
Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow. “You... Tiny? I don’t follow.”
Slatescale sighed and grabbed one of his spines again, arching it and holding the tip against the back of his head.
Rainbow Dash chuckled. “Hey, that makes you look like Spike! But I didn’t ask you to make a silly face.” She stared at Slatescale for a while, waiting for him to answer her question. After a few seconds, she said, “Oh! You mean Spike might know where she is?”
Slatescale nodded. Yes, yes, he got through to her, finally! When Cirrus was back, he had to remember to step it up on learning sign language.
“Okay, follow me!” Rainbow Dash said, flying along the town’s border again. Slatescale followed after her.
After a minute, they reached a large treehouse. Or, not really a treehouse, but a tree house. It was fairly large, with a lot of oddly-placed windows and even a balcony, which Rainbow Dash landed on. She went up to the door and knocked while Slatescale waited nearby.
A few seconds later, a purple pony with both wings and a horn opened the door. Her mane was purple with purple and pink highlights, and her eyes were purple as well. A very, very purple pony. “Hello, Rainbow!” she said. As her eyes drifted towards Slatescale, she gasped. “You must be Slatescale! What’re you doing here?”
“Hey Twilight!” Rainbow Dash said. “He’s looking for Cirrus Cloud. She’s his friend, and he came to town looking for her. Almost trampled a few houses.”
Slatescale gave an apologetic grin. It might not have been the best idea to just waltz into town like that.
“He said Spike might know where she is,” Rainbow Dash said. “Is he home right now?”
“Uh, sure,” Twilight said, briefly turning back inside. “Spike!” she shouted. “There’s somepony on the balcony for you!”
“Just a second!” came Spike’s voice from inside. A moment later, he joined the three of them. “Hey Rainbow! Twilight said you needed me?”
“Uh, no,” Rainbow Dash said, and pointed at Slatescale. “He does. He’s looking for Cirrus Cloud.”
Spike looked up, his eyes going wide with surprise. “Slatescale?!”
Slatescale gave a meek wave.
“Uh, right,” Spike said, taking a few seconds to compose himself. “I don’t know where she is. Sorry.”
Slatescale sighed and slumped forward. A dead end. Great. Now he’d never find Cirrus.
“She did say something yesterday about getting supplies,” Spike said. “But I don’t know what for. She said it was for cloud sculpting, but it sounded kinda fishy. It was after we talked about her promise. You know, about your cave?”
Hmmm. Cirrus was pretty interested about Slatescale’s home yesterday. It made sense for her to ask about it, wanting to know more about him. But why would she need supplies? Such an odd way to put it. ‘Groceries’ would be a more fitting word, but supplies implied something work-related, or a trip. Or...
An expedition into the mountains.
As soon as he realized this, Slatescale stepped backwards and frantically beat his wings, flying away from the town as fast as possible and towards the one place he never wanted to visit again, leaving the two ponies and baby dragon behind.
He could only hope he was fast enough.
“Now then,” the wyvern said. “Where should I put you, pony? Perhaps among some of these pretty jewels? Or I could just throw some of these old paintings out and put you there. So gaudy.”
Cirrus took a few steps back, bumping into a pile of gold. “Um, h-how about you put me near the entrance?”
“So you can easily escape?” the wyvern said, taking a step towards Cirrus. “You do have a point.” It lowered its head and grinned. “Makes for a satisfying hunt.”
“J-Just kidding,” Cirrus said, adding a nervous chuckle, “I think I’d look much better standing next to some statues. Why don’t you put me near some?”
“You know,” the wyvern said, “all this talk of placement is making me hungry.” He licked his chops, dripping a few small globs of drool on the ground. “And since you’re part of my hoard now, I might as well eat—”
Suddenly, it sounded like the whole mountain collapsed, a rumbling and crashing roaring through the cave. Something forced its way in, throwing coins and gems everywhere. Cirrus had to avert her head and duck to avoid getting hit, but a few coins still landed on and bounced off her back. After a moment, she looked up.
The wyvern had turned around, obscuring most of her view, but when Cirrus stepped to the side, she could see what had interrupted them. “Slatescale!” she shouted. “Y-You’re here!”
“Bah,” the wyvern said, snarling. “I thought I scared you away. What do you want?”
Slatescale pointed at Cirrus, staring the wyvern straight in the eyes. He snorted, little puffs of black smoke leaving his nostrils.
“Then you’re out of luck,” the wyvern said. “She’s mine, just like the rest of your hoard.” He stepped closer to Slatescale, getting so close their faces nearly touched. “In fact, I thought I scared you away. Why’d you come back, hm? To prove what kind of a pitiful excuse for a dragon you are?”
Slatescale growled and swiped a claw at the wyvern, who quickly took a step back to dodge.
“You’re going to have to do better than that,” the wyvern said. “Not that I’m expecting you to. After all, in spite of your bulk, you’re a weak dragon. A mongrel who can’t even defend his own hoard.” It stepped closer to Slatescale, driving him a step back. “A fraud. A weakling. I’m more of a dragon than you!”
Slatescale took a few steps back, weakly shaking his head.
“You know it’s true!” the wyvern shouted, advancing towards Slatescale. “We went through this before! If you’re a real dragon, prove it! Roar! Or...” It took a deep breath, standing up to its full length, then lunged forwards and roared. “LEAVE!”
The verbal assault drove Slatescale further back, and with each step, he made himself a little smaller, until his chest was against the ground. He averted his head and quivered, closing his eyes.
“Come on, Slatescale!” Cirrus shouted. “He’s all talk! Dragons can do a lot more than just roar!”
“Shut up, mule!” the wyvern yelled as he whirled around. “Letting you live this long was a mistake. One I intend to correct!” It took a deep breath and reared up again, small wisps of flame appearing in its mouth.
Cirrus ducked and cowered, but she knew it was useless. If the wyvern breathed fire on her right now, there’d be no way it’d miss, and such a huge gout of flame would be impossible to avoid. She briefly wondered if she’d even feel the heat.
Just as the wyvern reached its full height, however, it uttered a startled gasp and fell forwards, barely managing to support itself on its wings. “What in the...?” it muttered, turning its head backwards.
Behind it, Slatescale had grabbed the wyvern’s tail with both claws, just under the cruel barb. He pulled, stretching the tail out and keeping it taut. His scowl was intense as he glared at the wyvern, tugging with all of his strength.
Slowly, Cirrus stood up, her mouth wide open. Had Slatescale just saved her? Slatescale had just saved her. Again. Though judging from Slatescale’s absolutely furious expression, this situation was quite different from last time. Cirrus wanted to say something, anything. She wanted to express her gratitude, apologize, or just cheer, but not a single word came from her throat.
The wyvern growled and attempted to take a step forwards, but as soon as it moved a leg, Slatescale gave its tail a fierce pull, dragging the wyvern backwards. The wyvern shaked left and right, whipping its tail back and forth, eventually breaking loose of Slatescale’s iron grip.
“Bah! So you’re not a coward when it comes to this pony?” the wyvern said, turning around again. “Fine then.” It roared again and charged forwards, its head crashing into Slatescale’s chest with a dull thud and pushing the large dragon. The wyvern didn’t let up, pushing Slatescale and forcing him backwards.
“Slatescale! No!” Cirrus shouted, following the two enormous combatants. She had to hoist herself over multiple piles of treasures again, so by the time she reached Slatescale and the wyvern, they were already outside, locked in a stranglehold on the ground.
The wyvern had knocked Slatescale down and had tried to bite his throat, but Slatescale had his claws in the wyvern’s mouth, pushing it open. His arms twitched and quivered, as did the wyvern’s jaws, as none of the two could overpower the other.
Cirrus ran out of the cave, panting and gasping, opting to stick to the wall. Getting in the middle of this fight would not be a good idea. “Come on, Slatescale!” she shouted. “You can beat him! You’re much bigger!”
Slatescale briefly looked at her and nodded. With a sudden jerk, he threw the wyvern to the right, slamming it on the ground and rolling on top. He removed his claws from the wyvern’s mouth and reared back for a punch.
The wyvern recovered much faster than Slatescale had anticipated, and used its powerful legs to kick at its opponent’s belly, pushing him off. Awkwardly, the wyvern rolled over and stood up, flailing its wings about in the process. It panted and looked around: it was in a rather dangerous position, its back turned towards the end of the plateau.
Slowly, it started circling Slatescale. “This is ridiculous. I can insult you, take everything from you, but threatening a pony, a pony, for crying out loud, is what riles you up? You really are the weakest excuse for a dragon I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen some types. Awful types.”
Slatescale turned, intently following the wyvern with his eyes. His snarling grew louder and louder with every word the wyvern said. Just as the wyvern finished talking, Slatescale took a quick, deep breath and belched an enormous gout of flame towards his opponent.
The wyvern countered with its own fire breath, the two blazing columns slamming into each other with a massive roar. Due to the wyvern’s smaller size, it couldn’t keep up with the sheer volume of flames Slatescale breathed out, and it quickly had to jump to the side to avoid being roasted.
Slatescale didn’t hesitate, sharp nails extending from his fingertips as he lunged towards the wyvern. The nails matched his spines, having the same bright red colour and the same sharp look. They shone as they soared through the air, going straight for the wyvern’s head.
The wyvern stepped back, barely dodging Slatescale’s claws, both of them digging far into the ground inches from the wyvern’s head. It quickly retaliated, raising its tail and pointing its cruel barb at Slatescale.
Before the wyvern could strike, Slatescale pulled his claws out of the ground, together with a large rock, smashing it into the wyvern’s chin.
Cirrus cringed. Ow. And to think she’d been saved from a similar fate two days earlier.
While the wyvern was stunned, Slatescale stepped around it and grabbed its tail again, retracting his nails in the process. This time, instead of regularly pulling on the tail, Slatescale turned and pulled it over his shoulder, straining as hard as he could to drag the wyvern off its feet.
Snarling and growling, the wyvern tried stepping forwards, yelping in pain whenever Slatescale tugged. It reached for the ground with its wings, but the small claw tips weren’t nearly enough to get a grip. It wiggled about, trying to break loose, but its feet were lifted off the ground slightly, making it hard to move.
Slatescale briefly relaxed his arms, causing the wyvern to stumble forwards and fall, then pulled again, dragging the wyvern across the ground. He clenched his teeth in exertion as he gave an overhead swing, pulling the wyvern up and through the air, slamming it into the ground with a loud smash not even a second later.
Cirrus averted her head and shielded her eyes, the massive impact of the wyvern slamming into the ground scattering rocks everywhere. Luckily, none of them hit her, but she could hear the rocks clattering and smashing against the mountainside.
“I-I yield,” the wyvern said, flailing on the ground as it tried to get up, but it completely failed to as Slatescale was still holding its tail. “I can’t defeat you.” Snarling, it added, “If only because I lack arms.”
Slatescale let go of the wyvern’s tail and scowled as the creature rose to its feet again.
“Fair is fair,” the wyvern said, “your cave is yours again, as is your hoard. And of course, so is your... friend.” It spat out the last word, its voice dripping with venom as it shot Cirrus a brief glance. It arched its back, groaning loudly. “Let’s hope we never meet again.” With that, it flapped its wings, clumsily rising up and leaving, heading south.
Cirrus watched the wyvern leave, staring for a few seconds in amazement. She then turned to Slatescale and ran towards him, shouting, “Slatescale! You did it!” She came to a halt at his side. “Are you okay?”
Slatescale panted, taking a moment to regain his breath. He nodded, revealing the nail of his left index finger. A large part had broken off, leaving a rather silly-looking stump in its place. Slatescale shrugged and retracted the nail, then pointed at Cirrus.
“Me?” Cirrus asked. “I... I’m...” She looked down. “I-I’m...” Her knees buckled and she collapsed as tears welled up in her eyes. “I’m so sorry I broke my promise!” She sniffed and sniveled as she put her front hooves over her head. “I-I knew you didn’t want me to go, but I did, because I wanted— I had— I was so scared! A-And, thank you for saving me again, and—”
Something interrupted her. Something large, gently rubbing against her side. Cirrus slowly raised her head, wiping the tears from her eyes. She could see Slatescale, leaning forwards, very gently nuzzling Cirrus with his chin, a huge smile on his face. “Y-You’re not mad?” Cirrus asked, standing up and taking a step backwards in surprise.
Slatescale pulled his head back and shook it, then pointed at the cave entrance.
“Yeah,” Cirrus said, sniffling again. “I wanted to help you get your house back, but you had to save me. Again.” She sighed. “It’s just not possible for me to help you.”
Slatescale shook his head again. He pointed at Cirrus, then put a claw on his chest, right over his heart. He then balled his claw up into a fist and pounded it on his chest a few times.
Cirrus chuckled. “I think I know what you mean. You did get really angry when that wyvern threatened me. I’m glad I could help you find the courage to stand up to that bully.”
Slatescale nodded happily and went over to his cave, returning a few seconds later with a claw full of gold and gems, presenting it to Cirrus.
“No, I can’t take that,” Cirrus said with a chuckle. “I know you have lots, but I simply don’t have the room! Besides, I’d much rather come visit and look at your hoard. It’s much more beautiful that way.”
Slatescale nodded again, throwing his clawful of treasures back into his cave, causing coins and gems to clink and clatter against each other.
“Although...” Cirrus stepped towards the edge of the plateau, peering down. “It was pretty hard to get up here.”
Slatescale scratched his chin for a second, then picked up one of the many rocks at the edge of the plateau and set it down elsewhere. He took some dirt from elsewhere on the plateau and filled the hole he just made, creating the beginning of a simple path.
“Great idea!” Cirrus said. “But that’ll take a while. I don’t think I can get home before dark.” In fact, it’d be pretty hard to even get down the mountain before nightfall, as the sun was already well on its way toward the horizon.
Again, Slatescale had to think about that for a moment, before walking over to his cave. He stood to the side of the entrance, giving a little bow and motioning for Cirrus to enter.
“Are you inviting me in?” Cirrus giggled. “I guess it’ll be like any old sleepover then!” she said as she walked to the cave. “Except, you know, with a dragon and a pony, as opposed to just ponies.”
As she stepped inside, Cirrus let out a sigh of relief and yawned. Now that she had a few moments to calm down, she felt like she hadn’t slept in days. No surprise there, as it’s not every day you climb up a mountain, nearly get eaten by a wyvern, and then watch a dragon and said wyvern fight over you.
It had been the most exhausting, exciting, adrenalin-filled day of Cirrus’ life. But when she looked back at Slatescale, and saw the enormous smile on his face, she knew for sure that it was more than worth it.
“Just a little bit further. Keep your eyes closed!” Cirrus said, stepping backwards. “And no peeking!”
Slowly following her was Slatescale, faithfully keeping his eyes closed while following the sound of her voice. A few days had passed since he got his house and hoard back, but now, Cirrus had suddenly invited him to come back to the clearing where they used to meet up. Very strange, considering she’d always come meet him at his own home. At an odd time as well, considering it was already well into the evening.
“We’re here!” Cirrus said. “You can open your eyes now.”
As soon as Slatescale opened his eyes, he was met with a deafening shout of “SURPRISE!” The sheer volume of it caused him to rear in surprise. There were countless ponies gathered in the clearing, probably the entire population of Ponyville, and there were lots of wooden stands and tents, all of them containing food, games and other things. Slatescale looked down at Cirrus and raised an eyebrow.
Cirrus chuckled. “Do you like it? It’s—”
Before she could finish her sentence, a pink pony crashed into her side, causing Cirrus to tumble a few steps away. “It’s a Pinkie Pie party, and it’s totally... Uh... Pawesome!”
“Uh, yes,” Cirrus said, stepping next to Pinkie Pie. “For you, Slatescale!”
Slatescale briefly looked at all the festivities again, then looked at Cirrus again and tilted his head in confusion.
“Because you never got a ‘Welcome to Ponyville’-party!” Pinkie Pie said. “Or a ‘So sad you’re leaving Ponyville’-party. So we’re doing both! And maybe your birthday, if that happened somewhere in between. Did it?”
It took Slatescale a while to process the question, but when he did, he slowly shook his head. He was still trying to comprehend this whole party. All of these ponies looking at him with happy expressions, all these festivities. Last time he came to town, they were terrified! Slatescale was pretty sure the usual pony party wasn’t this big, either. This was more like a fun fair than a party. He pointed at all the tents, then held his front claws far apart.
“I know, it’s so big!” Cirrus said. “And you haven’t even seen everything yet! In fact, I haven’t even seen everything yet. Pinkie Pie here took care of the organization.”
Slatescale smiled, giving Pinkie Pie a small, polite bow.
“Hey, it’s what I do!” Pinkie said. “I also do baking, music, entertaining, clowning around, saving Equestria—”
“Um, I think he gets it, Pinkie,” Cirrus said with an awkward smile.
“Oh, yeah,” Pinkie said. “Hey, why don’t you two take a look around? There’s a whole lot of fun things to do!”
“Yeah, why don’t we do that?” Cirrus said, jumping up and flying to Slatescale’s head. “Come on, I’ll lead you around.” She flew off, shouting a quick “See you later!” to Pinkie Pie, with Slatescale following after her.
Often, the two of them took a moment to stop, looking at some kind of stand. Slatescale was a little bit disappointed he was too big to participate in anything, but there were still lots of ponies who wanted to talk to him for a little bit, some even wishing him a happy birthday. Cirrus then had to point out that it wasn’t his birthday, but then again, the sign saying ‘Welcome to and also farewell from Ponyville and maybe also happy birthday Slatescale’ was a bit confusing.
After a little while, they reached a large table, with a large pile of presents on top of it. Well, large for a pony, it wasn’t all that impressive to Slatescale. Most of the presents were either festively wrapped boxes or suspiciously gem-shaped packages.
“Whoa!” Cirrus said, landing next to the table. “I didn’t know there’d be this many presents! I wonder what’s in ‘em.” She grabbed a random present off the table, one that was diamond-shaped. After a second, she put it back. “I think I know what’s in that one.”
Slatescale carefully picked up one of the presents between his thumb and index finger. It was so small, he didn’t even know how to open it without damaging the contents. He put the present back on the table again, as opening them would be a dilemma for later. Maybe Cirrus could help.
“There are a lot of gems in this pile,” Cirrus said. “Where’d they all come from?”
“That’d be Rarity!” a voice came from within the pile. A second later, Spike popped out. “Hi C.C.! Hi Slatescale!”
Slatescale took a step back in surprise. What was it with the inhabitants of Ponyville and popping up unannounced?
“Hi Spike! Uh, what are you doing in Slatescale’s gift pile?” Cirrus asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Oh, sorry,” Spike said, hopping out of the presents. The young dragon was drooling slightly. “It just smelled delicious, so I... I was looking around to see if there was anything Slatescale would miss?”
Slatescale smiled, grabbed a random gem-shaped present from the pile and dropped it in Spike’s claws.
In the blink of an eye, Spike unwrapped the present and took a large bite out of the gem inside, a large, shiny topaz. “Thabks, bubby! Buh...” He swallowed, then tried again. “Thanks!”
“Spike! Are you eating one of the guest of honour’s presents?” a voice came from the side. Accompanying it was Rarity, who approached the three of them, giving Spike a stern look. “I thought I gave you enough gems before we got here!”
“But I was still hungry!” Spike whined. “And Slatescale gave it to me.”
“I’m sure Slatescale doesn’t mind,” Cirrus said. “I mean, I’ve seen his hoard. I think one gem more or less doesn’t matter.”
Slatescale quickly nodded in agreement.
“Sorry, Spike,” Rarity said. “I should’ve known you were polite enough to ask.”
“I’ll accept any apology from you, Rarity,” Spike said, clasping his claws together and holding them up to his cheek. His eyes seemed vaguely heart-shaped for a second, too.
Rarity simply ignored him and turned to Cirrus and Slatescale. “So, how are you two enjoying the party?”
“It’s amazing!” Cirrus said. “I can’t believe how Pinkie was able to get done with just that one sapphire.”
“You did give her the opportunity to throw two parties at the same time, and for a dragon, no less!” Rarity said. “Plus, there were a lot of ponies willing to help for free. I gathered all these gems, for instance.”
“F-Free?!” Cirrus said. “But that must’ve cost everypony so much time!”
“You’d be surprised what some ponies around here will do for a big party,” Rarity said with a wink. “Anyway, I hope these gems will make for a beautiful addition to your hoard, Slatescale. I didn’t know what kind of gems would fit best, so I got you a little bit of everything.”
Slatescale nodded, already trying to think of a place to put these gems.
Spike shook his head, clearing the hearts from his eyes. “Speaking of your hoard, I really wanna see that! We’re still practicing sign language later this week, right?”
“Of course!” Cirrus said. “But now that we’re talking about presents,” she looked around for a bit, “I’ve got a surprise for you, Slatescale. I’ll go get it. You stay here, okay?”
Slatescale nodded, watching Cirrus fly off and into a tent a little bit away.
When Cirrus was out of earshot, Spike spoke up. “Hey, Slatescale, is C.C.’s story true? That you beat up a wyvern to save her?”
“Oh, she told me about that as well!” Rarity said. “To have reached your darkest hour, with no hope in sight, and then suddenly, a stallion in shining armor comes in to save the day! How romantic!” She swooned for some extra dramatic effect. “Though in this case, I guess it’s a dragon in shining scales.”
Slatescale nodded, and blushed when Rarity mentioned the word ‘romantic’. That might be overstating it. He was simply defending a friend from mortal danger, that was all.
“That must’ve been so cool!” Spike said. “I mean, a dragon and a wyvern, it’s like the battle of the titans!”
Slatescale shrugged. It wasn’t that fancy. He just slammed an oversized lizard into the ground with the force of an earthquake. No big deal.
A few seconds later, the three of them could hear a loud groan. It sounded like a pony was trying to push something and only barely succeeding. It also sounded like Cirrus. Slatescale, Spike and Rarity looked at the tent she had disappeared into and each raised an eyebrow. “Uh, what’s she doing in there?” Spike asked.
Cirrus briefly slipped outside of the tent, rolling open the entrance and fastening it to the side. When she saw the confused stares of her friends, she blushed and gave an awkward grin. “Uh, don’t mind me. I’m just...” She pointed at the tent. “Grabbing something.” As quickly as she had appeared, she vanished inside the tent again.
Slatescale, Spike and Rarity simply spent a few moments giving each other very confused looks. Just when Spike opened his mouth to say something, Rainbow Dash landed in the middle of the three, skidding to a halt. “Hey, did you guys hear that?” she asked. “It came from over here, and it kinda sounded like a llama with I.B.S.!”
“Rainbow Dash!” Rarity chided. “That was most certainly not a llama! That was Cirrus!”
Rainbow blinked a few times. “Cirrus has I.B.S.?”
Rarity groaned. “No, she doesn’t.” She pointed at the tent Cirrus had vanished into. “She went inside that tent to grab something, but she seems to be having a bit of trouble.”
“Huh. I’ll see what I can do,” Rainbow said, walking inside the tent. Some mumbling came from the entrance, and after that, more groaning. Though this time, it sounded like both Cirrus and Rainbow at the same time, and it wasn’t nearly as loud.
Little by little, something appeared from within the tent. Something black and red, and strangely enough, it floated. It was pretty large, taking up most of the tent’s entrance, nearly brushing against the sides. After a while, it became apparent what the object was: a large, pitch-black cloud sculpture.
It was about as big as a small shack, and it looked exactly like Slatescale, curled up with his head held high. The body was made up of one big, black cloud, and the spines, claws and eyes were made with clouds that were somehow coloured red. The whole sculpture was very smooth and, strangely enough, a little bit shiny.
After it was fully outside and floating in front of Slatescale, Cirrus fell to the ground in exhaustion and collapsed, while Rainbow landed normally, panting.
“Oh my goodness!” Rarity said. “Cirrus, darling, are you alright?”
Cirrus slowly picked herself up, gasping and panting. “Yeah, yeah, just give me a moment.” She shook her head and jumped up, hovering in the air. “Look, Slatescale! I made this for you.” She waved her front hooves at the sculpture in a tired, half-hearted attempt at a dramatic reveal.
“Wow,” Spike said. “That is one big cloud sculpture. How’d you even make it?”
“And how did it get so heavy?” Rarity added. “It’s a cloud, how can it be so hard to move?”
Cirrus cleared her throat. “This sculpture was mostly made out of a single cloud, donated by Miss Rainbow Dash here.” She pointed at Rainbow and gave a little bow. “It’s a particularly volatile kind of storm cloud, one I’ve never had the... pleasure, I guess, of working with before.” She giggled briefly. “You should’ve seen the scorch marks I had after about an hour of work.”
“As for the spines,” she continued, “they were made with regular white clouds. They gained their red colour by being infused with a bit of distilled rainbow. Difficult, but as you can see, it creates beautiful colours! But that’s not all!”
She flew up to the head and lightly pressed on its cheeks. The cloud-Slatescale’s mouth opened slightly, several loudly crackling lightning bolts escaping from it. As soon as Cirrus let go, the mouth closed again. “This was really hard to do. I even had to check some of my old sculpting books again to make this work!”
She dropped to the ground. “Oh, and it’s so heavy because I just applied a special sculpture-preserving technique. Special cloud-compression thing. Preserves the sculpture because it makes the cloud resist movement!” She awkwardly kicked at the ground. “I just forgot that it makes the cloud really hard to move.”
“It’s beautiful!” Rarity said. “How did you make this in only a few days?”
Cirrus blushed and looked awkwardly at the ground. “It’s not that hard. The really difficult parts were only tiny. This is more of an intermediate thing. I could’ve done a lot better with a bit more time.”
“Even better?!” Rainbow said. “I’ve never seen anything like this before! This is awesome!”
“Yeah, it’s amazing!” Spike agreed. “What do you think, Slatescale?”
Slatescale stared at the sculpture for a while. He looked around at the ground, looking for some space to write on, but no such luck. Trying to express his thoughts, he went through several half-completed gestures, like a thumbs up, and holding his claw over his heart, but he eventually put his claw down with a frustrated frown.
Cirrus chuckled. “I guess you’d normally say you were speechless, but that’s not really the right word now, is it?”
Slatescale nodded vigorously, then held his claws far apart. He still wasn’t content with that gesture though, as his frustrated frown briefly returned.
“Oh, don’t worry,” Cirrus said. “Even though we’re friends, there’s not a whole lot I can do for you. I wanted to teach you sign language and I wanted to help you get your house back, but those were things I couldn’t do on my own. But I’m glad I couldn’t, because I wouldn’t have all my friends otherwise!”
“Darling, we’d be your friends regardless!” Rarity said, something with which both Rainbow and Spike agreed, both giving a quick nod.
“I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’ve been a bit silly, trying to do everything on my own,” Cirrus said. “But I guess I did pretty well on this sculpture, don’t you think?”
Slatescale nodded. He scratched his chin for a few seconds, then pointed at the sculpture. He held his arms out and pushed, then pointed at the mountains in the distance.
“Y-You want me to push it all the way over to your cave?!” Cirrus asked. “Sure, I can...” she looked at the sculpture for a second and gulped. “Just give me a moment.” This would require... A whole lot of pushing. Even thinking about it caused Cirrus to collapse out of exhaustion.
Rainbow sighed and rolled her eyes. “I guess I'm gonna have to help her with that.”