“Hey, wake up,” a voice said with a hand on my shoulder, gently shaking me.
I awoke, yawning. I’d been taking a mid-day nap in the park, enjoying a wonderful autumn day with a perfect breeze and beautifully-colored leaves that signified a crisp, clean autumn.
Of course, when I opened my eyes, I quickly realized that I was no longer lying on a bench at the park. Somehow, I was no longer even in the park at all. “Where am I?” I asked quickly. I thought this was a reasonable question, considering that I was no longer in the place where I had fallen asleep.
“No clue,” the one who had awoken me said. I got a good look around. I was in a large, white, windowless room. Also lacked doors. Damn. I like doors. Past the impossibility of not having doors (how the hay did I get in here then?), it was quite a nice room. Fairly spacious. Suspicious, too.
Around the room were various people. Against a wall sat two girls, a teenaged one with dark skin and hair, while the other appeared to be in her twenties with pale skin and burnt orange hair. On the opposite side lay two more people – a professionally-clad man in his late thirties slept near a woman in a long nightie. I guessed she was in her early thirties. The man next to me appeared near my age with sandy hair and well-tanned skin. I sat up, rubbing my temples. Boy, I better not get a headache from this. I hate headaches. Headaches suck.
“You okay?” The man next to me asked. Reasonable question.
“Yeah,” I said, blinking rapidly to clear my vision, which was still sort of clouded because of a bad case of sleep. I cleaned my glasses, which I had accidentally worn when falling asleep, on my t-shirt, trying to avoid smudging the glass with my fingers. “What’s going on?”
“I don’t know. For some reason, we were all sleeping, and we were in this room upon waking up. Chrissie over there,” he said, pointing at the pale-skinned woman, “was the first to wake up.” At his words, she looked at me and gave a little wave. I smiled back. “Then she got Robin up, and then me. I’m Geoff,” he said, holding his hand out.
I looked around the room and gave him a firm handshake. “Jason,” I said, nodding at him and the two women against the wall. Robin seemed to be shaking while Chrissie sat next to her, but gave me a wan smile.
“So,” Chrissie said, an arm around Robin’s shoulders. “Where’re you from, Jason?”
I frowned, trying to place her accent. Geoff sounded like he was from the Midwest, like me. “Ohio, America. Is that a Scottish accent?”
She laughed. “Ah, good, glad to have a foreigner present who can recognize that.”
I looked at Geoff, who shrugged. “I guessed Irish,” he told me.
“Well, I was just taking a nap in a park. How about y’all?”
“Napping at home,” Geoff replied.
“Sleeping,” Chrissie told me. I probably should have guessed, she was wearing just a plain white T-Shirt and grungy sweatpants, and lacked shoes.
“I was sleeping too,” Robin replied. I knew that accent – straight out of Wisconsin. I had family there.
I shook my head. “Anybody find out what we’ve got in common for this to happen?”
“You’re taking this awfully well,” Chrissie noted, looking at me strangely.
“Call me jaded,” I replied with a little grin. Hell, I’d been asking for something strange to happen in my life for years. It’d just been granted to me – but of course, I wasn’t going to say that. “Maybe we should wake everyone up, see what’s going on,” I suggested. I mean, come on, maybe one of them knew something!
“That’s what we were doing,” Geoff told me. “We were going to get the girl up next.”
“Well, don’t let me stop you.” I pushed myself off the white ground, looking around the room. Were it not for the single light hanging from the ceiling and the people inside, I would easily lose myself in the solidarity of the room.
Nodding, Geoff sauntered over to the pair on the floor. He crouched down by the woman and gently spoke into her ear. I walked over near Robin and Chrissie and sat near them, away from Robin, who seemed nervous at my approach.
“Any theories?” I asked them, raising an eyebrow.
“Well, I was originally going to go with some sort of UN conspiracy,” Chrissie began, “but you’re really taking this extremely well. I panicked for a couple minutes before trying to wake someone up.”
Robin nodded, still nervous. Chrissie smiled at her and hugged her a little closer. “Robin here is still very shook up. Poor dear doesn’t seem to want to accept the situation.”
I frowned and watched Geoff crouch down next to the woman in the sleepwear. “I’d be nervous too, if I wasn’t me,” I said, not bothering to see what I knew would be a disapproving look. I gave a little laugh to show I wasn’t serious. Truth was, I was extremely bothered – what could possibly be going on here? Chrissie had a good thought – the UN doing this would account for us being together here, from all different locations. “Though, I’m not sure I’d like people talking about me like I wasn’t here. You okay, Robin?” I asked, looking at the girl.
She gave me a quick grin that convinced a grand total of no one, and nodded. My frown grew, but I looked over to Geoff and listened to him.
“Wake up, please. I really don’t want to have to touch you, it’s really weird,” he was saying.
“Apparently we only wake up by touch,” Chrissie added. “Geoff yelled in your ear for a good couple minutes.”
“Okay, fine,” he relented, and then crouched down. He put a hand on the woman’s shoulder, and she sat up with a gasp.
“What the hell are you doing in my – this isn’t my room! What the hell?!” She yelled out. I frowned, unable to place her accent, something I was usually proud of. Of course, the fact that my first thought had been that should tell you something about my priorities – they’re seriously messed up.
“Please, calm down,” Geoff said in a calm tone. “No one here is going to hurt you,” he said.
“What do you mean, here? Tell me what’s going on!” She screeched, looking at him with wild eyes. She scanned around the room, taking us in. “What the hell is this place? Why are all you people here?”
I decided not to butt in. This clearly was a situation for a level head, and I definitely didn’t have one right now. Seriously, yelling gets you nowhere, ever. Just makes you look like an idiot, and if I spoke right now, that would be the first thing coming out of my mouth. Clearly, that would be the worst possible thing right now, insulting her.
“Ma’am, if I knew that, I’d be a truly happy camper,” Geoff replied, standing back from the frantic woman.
It seemed like she finally took a moment to check her surroundings completely. Her gaze rocked across the three of us against the other wall, seeming at ease (except for Robin’s nervousness). She looked again at Geoff, with a softer, but still suspicious gaze. “So you don’t know what’s going on?” she asked, this time in a level tone.
“No, Ma’am. I’m Geoff,” he told her, reaching out his hand. She took it, but instead of shaking it, she used it to pull herself off the ground. He grunted in surprise, but stayed on his feet.
“Sam,” she said, looking around. She stared at us, and I gave her a little wave.
“Jason,” I said, giving her a smile I thought would be reassuring. She just frowned at us. Worrywart. Not like I was gonna get up and start beating her up.
Of course, she had just woken up in a strange place with five strangers. Dat Fundamental Attribution Error, always messing up my already screwed-up day.
Chrissie and Robin said their names as well, and Sam stood there staring at us. Eventually, she leaned against a nearby wall. “So. We all wake up here, and none of you know what’s going on?”
“Not a clue,” I chimed in, trying to sound positive. It was becoming difficult, fast, to keep my spirits up. Every second that passed made me realize more and more that we were seriously screwed – in a place like this, help could be here in moments – or not for days.
Hell, on that line of thought, how could we tell time? By the feel of my jeans, I could tell my phone was gone, and I didn’t see any watches. I just hoped something would happen before we all got really, really hungry.
But, I guess if anything were to happen, we should wake everybody up.
“I vote that we wake the last guy up here, see if something happens,” I put out, thinking it’s a nice idea.
“I agree,” Chrissie… well, agreed. “We should try and figure out a way to get together and escape, or something.”
“I think we should as well,” Geoff added.
Sam looked around, then sighed. “Might as well,” she grumbled, sliding down against the wall opposite us.
Yay! I – oops, Robin. “Robin?” I asked, wanting to include the girl as much as possible.
She looked at me (as did everybody else) and gave a little nod and a wan smile. I gave a sad smile back to her to reassure her, and she looked away.
Ugh. She reminded me of me a couple years back. Ah, well, she’d get over it in her own time.
“Alright! We’re in agreement, then. Geoff, if you’d do the honors…” I said in a grandiose manner, sweeping my arm out
“I guess so, I’m already here,” he replied. He crouched down next to the man, and I took the opportunity to more closely look at him while he still slept. He appeared peaceful (probably because he’s asleep), and a bit worn-down. Likely a professional businessman, little settling down in his life. I didn’t envy that lifestyle – I’m a homebody.
Geoff gently touched his shoulder, and immediately the man’s eyes popped open. He looked around, attempting to get his bearings. Blinking rapidly, he focused of Geoff. He stuck his hand in the air and began to speak. “Daniel. Daniel Miller, at your service.”
I smirked. I hoped the rest of what would come from Mister Miller over there would be just as entertaining. Geoff took Daniel’s hand and gave it a weak shake, a little confused. “Geo-“
“Ffffff,” Daniel finished for him. He let go of Daniel’s hand and leaned forward into a sitting position. He looked around. “Robin Jameson, Jason West, Chrissie Schumacher, Geoffrey O’Brian, and Samantha McIntyre. Wonderful, you’re all up.”
“How do you know all of us?” Sam asked, backing away from him and towards us. Geoff was doing the same.
“Oh, I thought it was obvious.” Duh, he’d brought us here. “Correct!”
Wait, what? “What do you mean, correct?” I asked, staring at him. Did he just –
“Read your thoughts? Why, yes! I did.” Oh crap, is this going to be some stupid 1984 thing?
“I wouldn’t suggest attacking me, miss Schumacher. I’m your only way out.”
“Then what was correct?” Chrissie asked through gritted teeth.
Daniel Miller laughed, an actual belly laugh, not one of those polite, evil fake laughs. “Why, the fact that I’m the one who brought you here, of course.”
“Um,” a voice began. We all looked at its source – Robin, of all people. “If you brought us here, how did you do it and how come you were asleep too?” She asked, a tad nervous. I think I’m going to ignore her nervousness now – she’s always nervous.
“I’d like to know the answer to that as well,” Sam said, staring daggers at him. He just laughed again. “You can get all the answers you like, but you have to find the common link.”
“Common link?” Geoff asked.
“Yes! The one thing that connects you all together, of course.”
I scowled. I like scowling, but in this case it was because he kept saying ‘of course’ like everything he said was obvious. He just turned towards me and gave me a shit-eating grin. That’s what I do, dammit. He’s stealing my lines. Or actions. Whatever.
“Welp,” I sighed. “I guess we should figure it out. Daniel over there, or whoever he is, obviously is a maniac who can do weird things, so why not? Just ignore him in the meantime.”
I looked around and saw the others mulling it over. Chrissie was the first to say something. “Might as well,” she agreed, motioning. “So. Let’s see. Jobs?”
“Unemployed,” Robin stated.
“Already nothing there. I’ve got a job. How about… birthdays?”
“December tenth,” Geoff said.
I raised my eyebrows. Could we be on to something? “December thirteenth,” I offered.
Sam shook her head. “February sixth,” she added.
Chrissie made a grunt of unhappiness. I think it was unhappiness. “June twenty-third. This isn’t getting us anywhere.”
“You’d better try harder, or you’ll be staying here a while,” Daniel said with a guffaw. I was seriously beginning to dislike this guy. I enjoy laughter and fun as much as anyone(probably more), but I didn’t like sadism. “Challenge Accepted, asshole,” I said, frowning at him. That just made him sit down, holding his stomach and laughing.
“Not sure if insane,” Chrissie began, “or just sadistic.”
I looked at her. That was a meme. Right there. “Um, this is a shot in the dark, but are we all denizens of the interwebs?”
Sam looked at me. “Denizens?”
“You know,” I said, waving my arms. Hey, gotta keep the funny. “Spend a ton of our free time surfing the internet.”
“I do,” Robin said, giving me a smile (I think that one was actually a real smile, woohoo!). That’s me, the charmer.
“I do too,” Geoff said, pushing himself off the wall he was leaning against.
Chrissie just shrugged and nodded when I looked at her. I turned my gaze to Sam, who pressed her mouth in a thin line. She hesitated a moment, then shrugged. “Yeah. I do.”
I turned to Daniel, smiling. That was easy! We were all nerds! “We-“
“Close,” he began, “but no cigar.”
I scowled. The humor was leaving me completely, which was weird in itself – I was ALWAYS stupidly upbeat. This was unacceptable. “I am not amused,” I growled. He just cackled again and began unbuttoning his suit.
“Arrgh, he just makes me want to scream!” I fumed, turning towards our now-closer-together group. I inhaled deeply, closed my eyes, and gave out an “aaaaaaah!” quietly, mimicking Fluttershy. Upon opening them, I found the other four staring at me strangely. “What?” It was weird. I don’t really like being stared at.
“Did you just…” Chrissie began, but trailed off, looking uncertain. Robin smiled at me and reached out a fist. Blinking, I met it. Well, butter my biscuits, Robin was a brony. Or a pegasister. Whatever she preferred.
“Brohoof,” I said to Robin, giving the girl a smile. Nice to meet another one who wasn’t afraid to show it in public. As I brought my attention back to the others, I noticed something strange. Instead of looking at Robin and me, they were looking strangely at each other. I opened my mouth, but Sam beat me to the punch.
“I’m a brony, too,” She blurted, looking at us. I gave her a reassuring smile. It sounded like she didn’t even like admitting it to herself. New to the herd, probably.
“Me, too,” Geoff said, grinning. We all looked at Chrissie, who shrugged.
“I’ve watched all the episodes… about a dozen times,” she said, a big grin on her face.
That clinched it for me. Five bronies randomly gathered? That had to be it.
“Bravo!” Daniel yelled, bringing our attention to him. “You’ve figured out your common link.”
“Great. We’re bronies. What is this, some kind of stupid social experiment? See if we all immediately start gushing about ponies? Commence dirty behavior? What?” I asked, angry again. I scowled as he laughed at that.
“Oh, don’t be so stupid, Jason. This is no experiment,” he responded with a jolly expression. However, all of a sudden, he leaned forward, a dark look on his face. “Oh, no, my dears. This is definitely not a social experiment. It is not research. It is not even in the slightest bit benign.”
My anger was turning towards fear, which was DEFINITELY not a good thing.
“So what’s going on?” Chrissie asked. I could tell she was nervous too. In fact, we were all backing away from Daniel, who was walking towards the middle of the room, glowering at all of us.
“What’s going on, she asks? I’ll tell you,” he growled, his tone angry and dark. “I have plans. You all are going to help me with them.”
“What sort of plans?” I asked, trying unsuccessfully to keep my voice level. He laughed again, only this time it was laced with malign undertones, as if he knew something that we didn’t, and it was going to be very bad for us.
“Plans that would work better without constant scrutiny of me. You five are going to make that nag regret she ever imprisoned me.”
My mind, which normally worked quite logically, began to entertain thoughts of horrible misdeeds done to us by this psychopath.
“It seems one of you has figured out who I am, albeit only part of the way,” Daniel announced, looking straight at Chrissie. “If you would, dearie, tell them who I am.”
She stared at him, eyes wide open. “Discord,” she breathed. He laughed, a great big sound that filled the entire room.
“So close, yet so far. You see, the magical world of Equestria really does exist. But I introduced it to you stupid humans, in order to cull out a couple of you for my plans. But there are very important things left out. But the biggest one is that everything, I repeat everything, is so dumbed down it’s not even funny. Well, maybe a bit,” he said, a grin on his face. “The Discord brought to you by your beloved television is a namby-pamby wimp compared to me. I, my new allies, am Chaos, and will only be referred to as such. And you are going to spread me like a wildfire, because I am very unafraid of killing.”
He snapped his fingers, and the world went white.
At least, I thought it went white. I looked around me, and saw nothing but more pasty white. Upon looking up, I found the lamp that had been hanging up. Where did everybody go? What had happened?
“Ever hopeful that something would make your life significant, ever hopeful that you could make your dream come true and come to your dear Equestria,” I heard Daniel say, though he wasn’t in the room anymore.
“Where are you?” I asked, angry again. This was seriously some fucked-up shit. I was tired of games now, only wanting this to be over. “Chaos, or Discord, or Daniel, what the fuck is going on?”
“Oh, only your fondest wish! Ever patient, ever hopeful, and ever the pacifist. You’ve always prided yourself above discrimination, trying to treat everyone equally.” He laughed again. I was getting tired of the laugh. “Well, let’s see how you do in Equestria, where you’re going to be the target of such discrimination you so hate.”
Suddenly, a mirror appeared in the opposite wall of the room. As I watched, my reflection slowly melted into rippling waves of silver. The longer I watched, the more distinct a new image became.
“Purple though, so gaudy! I can’t believe you actually like it so much. But whatever. It’s time for you to live your dream, Jason. And in doing so, destroy it.”
The mirror slowly stopped sending out waves, and the image flattened. It was now just a flat screen of a dull violet color. Not knowing what to do, I walked over to it and inspected it. No matter where I looked, the angle never changed – it was just a blank sheet of purple.
I touched it. Idiot. I gasped as an indescribable pain filled my head, and my vision faded to black.
Pre-read by Chaotic Dreams and GaruuSpike.
“I really, REALLY hate pain,” I said as I came to. Of course, there was no one to hear me. I thought. My eyes were closed because I had one hell of a migraine. “Anybody there?” I asked.
No answer. Great. I was still alone. My voice was all gravelly too, like when I woke up with a bunch of phlegm in my throat. Slowly, I opened my eyes, careful not to let too much light in. When open sky greeted my sight, I thought for a minute that the whole thing had been a dream. That, however, was dispelled the moment I registered the clouds. Fucking cartoon clouds man, they’re the same everywhere. Or should I start going with ‘bucking’? After all, if Chaos or whatever his name was lived up to his word, I was there.
First things first. I was DEFINITELY no longer human. I felt a tail. That much was obvious. I shook my head, noting a lack of swishing or anything of the like. Blinking, I looked down. Purple scales. Scales. Purple. Fuck yeah, I’m a dragon. Buck yeah, sorry. I’m a freaking dragon. Headache forgotten, yes, it’s happened before (the forgotten headache part, not the dragon part), I rolled over. Gingerly, I rose to all fours. It felt very natural to stand on all fours. Inspecting myself, I found that beside my important parts, I was a variety of dragon that went like that most of the time. I was kinda humped on my back, with some wicked-cool silver spikes going down my back like a stegosaurus, and I had WINGS.
Chaos thought my greatest wish had been to come to Equestria. Well, that bastard was dead wrong. Sure, it was pretty far up there, but my greatest wish of all was to bucking fly. Not on a jet, or a plane, but on my own. A jetpack would have sufficed. But this was better than that – my own pair of wings. Quite possibly the. Greatest. Thing.
Back to my changed anatomy. My forelegs ended in claws, so I’m going to go ahead and go with arms. I found that I could balance on my legs for a couple of moments, but if I didn’t shift or do something specific, I lost my balance and crashed back down onto my arms. I flung my tail around, watching it move to my every whim. Do you know who weird it is to have muscles you didn’t have just a few moments ago? So. Weird. But, anyway, the wings. You know how you sometimes actually notice your shoulder blades? It feels strange to move them while not focusing on your arm movements. Imagine that, but with huge leathery things attached, and the bones aren’t connected to your arms.
Yeah, it doesn’t really work, but it’s the best comparison I’ve got. Sue me.
I took the opportunity of relative peace to check out my surroundings. It looked like I was in a pleasant forest meadow (NOT Everfree, by the looks of it, thank goodness), and it was about midday. I thought about trying to fly, but decided that maybe it was best to try and get some sort of shelter or cave around me before I did any real exploring. Chaos wanted me to help him? Well, buck that guy. Thanks for bringing me to Equestria bud, but I didn’t sign any papers. I was gonna sit tight and…
Damn. That’s right. Robin, Sam, Geoff, and Chrissie. Where could they be? Were they dragons too? Did Chaos bring them here at all? Those questions would have to wait to be answered. Deciding to try and make a home base before doing any of that. Learning to fly would help, too.
I moved forward into the forest, walking at first a bit shakily, but getting a handle on it pretty fast. It’s like walking on all fours as a human, just way less awkward.
It really was a nice day. I started whistling “Mister Blue Sky” as I plodded along, glad I could still whistle. It didn’t really fit, since my new friends might actually be in trouble and there were actually a lot of clouds in the sky, but whatever. Like I said, sue me.
The trees were really boring me, though. I hadn’t seen much wildlife, just a bird here or there, but that was probably because a big, violet dragon with kickass silver spines on his back (they were so bucking COOL) was taking a walk through the forest like he owned the place.
However, maybe half an hour into my walk, I began to hear voices from afar. I slowed my pace in order to quiet my footsteps, hoping to try and get a bit of bearings.
“…ill a couple days from Hoofington. We’ll rest in a small town called Crescentville at nightfall, is that okay with everypony?”
I contemplated that as I heard various noises of approval. Nice to know that not every stinking place in Equestria was pun-themed. This must be a travelling group. I had to make a decision, though. Ponies (they were likely ponies, hence the ‘everypony’) likely wouldn’t take my presence too nicely. And if what Chaos said was true, there was a chance they could be violent towards me. I had to find a way to communicate with them before revealing myself.
“We move in five,” the voice I had heard first said. I continued to pad along, staying as quiet as I could. I noticed that my senses were improved – normally I had terrible hearing, but a predator like a dragon would definitely have sharpened hearing, sight, et cetera. I didn’t know how far away they were though, not being able to test my hearing well. Being a dragon for all of less than an hour will do that to you.
“So. You say your name is Robin, no?”
I froze. Robin? Could it be? I nudged forward further.
“Yes,” came a reply. Definitely her. I had to get to her somehow. Determined to find something familiar, I began to dart between trees in an effort to stay hidden. I almost fell over once I caught a view of a blue shape on the ground in the trees. I hid against a larger tree, pulling my wings in completely so I’d not be visible. I heard water hitting the ground. Great, the pony was taking a piss break. And I could smell it. Ugh. Note to self, find a way to turn smell off.
“Why won’t you tell us where you’re from, Robin?”
“I just can’t. You wouldn’t believe me,” she replied.
“Come now. Magic is rampant in Equestria. Please, tell me.”
I could almost hear her thinking about it. I gritted my teeth together (hard to do, since they’re all sharp and stuff and fit in-between each other) as I waited for the blue pony to stop their urination and go back to the group.
“Well… would you believe that just earlier I wasn’t a pony at all?”
“I’d find it difficult to believe, yes, but could you elaborate?”
“Well, I met four other people like myself – we’re humans – and then we were attacked by this guy called Chaos. He separated us, and then I touched this mirror, and then next thing I knew, I was here as a pony.”
Well, good going, Robin. They’d probably think you were a nutcase.
“Ugh. Chaos. I thought he’d been taken care of. Well, dear, I’m not sure what a ‘human’ is, but I’m sorry, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever get back home.”
I’m not sure what surprised me more – the fact that she actually believed Robin, or the fact that she’d been so blunt about the situation. Either way, it resulted in disaster for me. I coughed, which sent a ball of silvery fire careening into a nearby tree. While it was really, REALLY cool, I also got me caught.
“Hey, who’s there?” I heard from the direction of the pisser.
“Buck,” I muttered under my breath. I soon realized that all the ponies had stopped speaking, likely waiting for a response of any kind. I spoke loudly. “Hello! My name is…” buck, I needed a name. Jason was just so LAME for a dragon. I needed something cool. Something - “Zweilous!” That worked. Zweilous. I liked Zweilous. Thank you, subconscious. “I’m going to ask you very nicely not to panic, please.”
“And why would we panic?” I heard from the mare that had been questioning Robin.
“Because I’m a dragon,” I said, not revealing itself.
“And what is a dragon doing here?” she asked. Oh, crap, I could bucking SMELL the fear off of her. It was like walking into a freaking perfume section, but way worse, because my neck prickled something fierce at the smell.
“I’m in the same situation Robin is in,” I said, trying to endear myself to them. It also didn’t hurt the fact that it was true.
“Jason? Or is it Geoff?”
That was Robin. Good. “Jason,” I said.
“He’s safe, he won’t hurt you,” she told the group.
“Jason? I thought you said your name was Zweilous,” the mare said, confusion in her voice.
“Yeah, well, Jason’s really lame when it comes to dragon names. So I’m Zweilous now. Can I come out of hiding?”
“I think you’d better. I’ll have you know that three unicorns have their magic primed on you if you try anything funny.”
I slowly stepped out from the tree. What greeted me shocked me – three unicorns were looking at me with a mix of rage and fear in their eyes. But most of all, they looked like experienced combat veterans. All three of them were wearing armor and glanced warily around, but always kept me in their vision. I stuck my hands into the air. “I won’t try anything. Scout’s honor.”
“Come with me,” the stallion in the middle said. He began to walk back, and I followed him. The two unicorn mares fell in behind me. I felt like a gorram prisoner. However, after a few short moments of walking, the forest thinned into a clearing that led to the left and right as far as I could see. I assumed the little dirt line in the middle of it meant that this was a road. I looked around, taking stock.
Other than the three combat unicorns surrounding me(so WEIRD), there were two more unicorn stallions, a pegasus mare, and two earth ponies, both female.
“Jason?” The earth pony on the right asked me.
“Robin?” I responded, raising an eyebrow. She smiled, and walked up to me. Her coat was a cream color, with a chocolate mane and tail. She conspicuously lacked a cutie mark. She reached up and put a hoof on my side (I was half again as tall as a regular pony while on all fours), smiling.
“I’ve known you for about half an hour, but I can’t tell you how glad I am to see you,” she told me.
“Likewise, sister,” I said. I shifted my weight to the left and reached out to her hoof with my right claw. Not wanting to envelope the hoof in my claws (things looked really sharp), I closed it into a fist. Realizing my intention, she bumped the fist with a hoof.
“So Jas… I mean, Zweilous, have you seen Geoff, Sam or Chrissie?” she asked me. It was weird hearing her voice coming from a pony rather than her human self. Her voice hadn’t changed like mine.
I shook my head in negation. “No, you’re the first group of anything I’ve come across.”
“So, you say that you’re in the same situation as Robin? Chaos brought you here?”
I looked at the earth pony mare (who was obviously the leader of the group), sizing her up. She carried herself well. She had an orange coat and a lighter orange mane, which flowed down nearly to the ground. “Yes,” I responded.
“Well then. You’re not the first, I’ll have you know. We’re under orders, everypony is, to bring all cases like you straight to the nearest major city. That’d be Hoofington, but it’s a day away. Can you bear to accompany us until then? We’re going to be stopping outside a town called Crescentville later.”
I shrugged(I think, hard to tell with the different anatomy), and nodded. “I’d definitely appreciate the help. Thank you so much,” I said.
She chuckled. “Don’t be too sure that it’s out of the goodness of my heart. Cases like you bring us a thousand bits a head.”
I looked at her funny. Did she just say that? “Did you just-“ I wasn’t able to finish, because right then one of the unicorns fired a bolt of magic at me. I dodged it by swinging my head around and smashed my tail into the unicorn. However, I was caught unaware as I felt something slam into my head from behind. I groaned to myself as I felt myself black out for the second time that day.
Pre-read by Chaotic Dreams
Well, I wasn’t in any pain this time. As I regained consciousness, I figured out that I was moving somewhere. I was laying on my stomach with my limbs bound and my tail tethered to something. I tried to raise my head and found that my neck was partway blocked. Oh, and I was hungry. Great.
“Good news,” I said, feeling the words form deep in my throat. “I’m still in Equestria.”
I waited a few moments, and when nothing replied, I sighed. “Bad news,” I continued, opening my eyes. I found myself staring out at the road, and it was travelling away from me. Or, more likely, I was travelling backwards. There were walls on either side of me and a ceiling above me – I figured that the damn ponies had procured some sort of wagon while I was out.
“A bunch of bucking assholes have captured me and are planning on selling me like a slave,” I yelled, extremely irate.
“Shut that stupid drake up,” I heard. This was from that stupid mare that was in charge. Buck her.
“Okay,” I heard Robin reply. What had they done to her? What was going on?
“How long was I out?” I asked when her cream-colored body came into view. Dammit, stupid mind. Always asking questions in the wrong order.
“The entire night. We’ve already left Crescentville.”
“Are you okay?” I asked. There we go. Back in the correct order.
“Yes. They told me as long as I don’t fight, they won’t harm either of us.” She looked guilty.
I shook my head. “Glad they thought me of deserving that much trust.”
Robin gave a grimace. I thought it was a grimace – I don’t really know pony expressions all that well, thank you. “Well, they might have, but when you knocked out that unicorn, they decided pretty quickly to restrain you.”
Wow, I knocked him out? Awesome. “Cool,” I said, showing my teeth. “One tail knock put him out cold? Dragons are awesome,” I said. Robin just frowned at me.
“We could be in serious trouble, and you’re making humor?”
“Sorry, Robin, it’s who I am.” At this point, however, she did something weird. She widened her eyes and jerked her head to my right. I narrowed my eyes and opened my muzzle to speak, but she shook her head.
“Maybe that’s not quite what we need right now, Zweilous.” She did her motioning thing again. I rolled my eyes over to the right, searching. I found nothing. I looked back to Robin, who took a chance. She stopped and ran her hooves down her face in long strips. I furrowed my brows, still confused. I looked again as she hurried to catch up with the wagon. I was about to look away when something flashed in my vision.
“Well, it’s what you’ve got,” remembering to keep the conversation going. Upon closer inspection, I saw a little pony-sized blur in the forest. I focused, and nearly gasped. We were being followed by a Zebra! A zebra that obviously didn’t want to be seen. I looked back at Robin.
“Ugh. Well, I hope we find one of the others soon. Sam or Chrissie. Maybe Geoff,” She said in an offhand manner. However, at Geoff’s name, she pointed her head again. Oooooohhhh! The zebra was Geoff! But what in the world was he going to do to get us out of here? After all, he was just one Zebra, and he’d only been a zebra for a day. If he didn’t do something fast, we were going to be sold to someone in the Hoof. Yeah, I’m calling it that. Sue me. Again.
Well then. I was a dragon, Robin was a pony, and Geoff was a zebra. If we all followed the same pattern of being different species, what was left? D-Dogs and Griffins and… oh dear. Buffalo, or bison, or whatever you wanted to call them. Or cattle. Ooh, unpleasant thought. Unless you counted earth pony, unicorn and pegasus separate species. Then it might be okay. That made the odds of ending up as a cow far less likely.
“Yeah, I’d totally want them in this situation. Captured by a bunch of insensitive FUCKS!” I yelled, forgetting about wanting to switch to “buck”.
“Dammit Robin, if you don’t shut that bucking drake up we will tie you up with him and muzzle you both!” the orange bitch said. Again, buck her.
“Shut me up yourself, bitch!” I called back to her, angry now. Seriously, I was PISSED. Here this idiot was, insulting me and threatening my friends. I looked at Robin, noting her extreme discomfort (one could call it nervousness, but we went over that), and not feeling any remorse. This was going to happen RIGHT NOW.
“Stop the damn cart,” I heard her say, and a few moments after our movement stopped, the orange pony stepped into view. “You really don’t want me to,” she said, glowering at me.
“The buck do I care? You’re going to sell me! What’s your name, anyway?” I asked. That caught her off guard – why the hell would I want to know her name?
“Why the hell do you want to know my name?”
I just glowered at her.
“Fine. My name is Orange Grove. Happy?”
“Yep. Now I know the name of the nag that I’m going to hunt down once I get free of whomever she’s selling me to.”
She stared at me a moment, stunned. “You… you just called me a… nag.”
I looked at her and bared my teeth. I hoped I looked ferocious. “A. Bucking. Nag. That’s what you are. Useless as a living being.”
She hit me. She hit me! Here we were, engaged in the sacred art of throwing shit at each other, and she broke the damn rules by hitting me!
She then ran out of view. I think she was sobbing. Wow, now I almost felt bad. Maybe nag was a worse insult than I thought.
Well, not so good. I didn’t feel sorry for her because she was a total bitch, but when she came back she had chains on her back. That clinched it for me – the nag was going to chain my mouth shut. And sorry if I sound pretentious, but I kind of like being able to hear my voice when I want to.
“Nope,” I said, and raised my head up straight into the air as far as I could. Robin giggled at that. When Orange looked at Robin, ready to ask why the other pony was laughing, I coughed a fireball at her face. When it collided with her, she was sent flying through the air, and slammed into a tree, hard. Roaring, I began shooting fire at the cart, trying to wreck the thing. Honestly, shooting fire was kind of weird – imagine trying to clear your throat, but instead of air and phlegm being the things used, it was kind of like a muscle, and really hot air. Anyway, the cart began to burn with my strange silvery fire, and Robin had run off into the forest. I heard yelling.
As the flames got hotter and hotter (I could feel the heat, but it was actually pleasant, kind of like a hot shower in the morning, just without the water and morning parts), I pulled on the restraints that bound me. After a few moments, I was able to break through them because of the weakening wood on the wagon. That was step one. Step two began when one of the unicorns appeared in my view. That involved me coughing a fireball at that nag too. She met a tree next to Orange, and began sleeping with it.
I looked at her and smiled, a pleasure-less showing of teeth. “My, miss unicorn mare, you were awfully quick to start sleeping with mister tree there. Must be a lustful sort,” I chuckled. After a short moment with no activity, I did my best to shuffle out of the cart. I didn’t have to try that hard – just moving was messing the thing up, and pieces of burning wood were falling all over. I looked around, but the only ponies I saw were the two I had assaulted.
“Where is-“ I was cut off as a net flew through the air towards me. Instinctively, I shot a claw out, trying to snatch it out of the air. Instinctively, it worked. In practice, I’d been a dragon for a day, so I missed. The annoying thing whipped around my muzzle, snapping painfully tight. I attempted to open my mouth, but found that the thing was annoyingly strong.
“Stop!” All of a sudden, zebras, everywhere. Immediately my illogical mind checked their flanks. Yep, they had their own cutie marks, like ponies. Instead of wondering what the flying buck was going on, I was happy to have solved that mystery.
“Mmphfmmf. Nnkmmf. MMknnnttk.” That was supposed to be “I’m stopped. Look at me, I can’t talk,” but I obviously couldn’t talk. So, instead of telling them I was ready and willing to be harmless, I just laid down. That’s right, with hostile-looking zebras all ‘round me, I made myself a sitting duck. Dragon. Whatever.
“What the hell?” One of the stallions to my front asked. “Why’s he just sitting there?”
“Maybe because I’m right and he doesn’t want to fight?” Ohmygosh that was Geoff. I should have figured – he was the only one without jewelry. “Gmmf!” I exclaimed, looking at him. He smiled at me.
“Jason,” he said. “Seriously, guys, stand down,” he looked around with an irate look on his face. To my surprised, they actually stopped converging on me. Geoff trotted up to me and put a hoof to the net. At his touch, it slid off as if it had never been stuck on my mouth in the first place.
Of course, this was an opportunity I could not possibly pass up. Best moment for a one-liner ever!
“…Can I get up now without getting mauled?” Dammit. I get so few opportunities!
“Slowly,” the stallion next to Geoff said. I slowly got to my feet (on all fours, but whatever, I like my phrases), and looked around. Seven zebras, three being mares. Each stripe pattern was slightly different, ignoring the cutie marks. I focused my attention on Geoff and smiled.
At that, he backed away a few steps, and all the zebras looked a little more hostile.
“Oops, sorry. Not used to smiling being intimidating,” I said, lowering my lips. At that, a couple more zebras appeared out of the woods, dragging some ponies along. Robin came behind them. “Robin, you’re okay!” I said, resisting the urge to bound over to her. She smiled at me.
Well, that was three of us. Three of five. Chaos still hadn’t shown his stupid face here, either.
I took stock. Thirteen zebras, including Geoff. 6 unconscious ponies, including the two I’d knocked out. Robin. Me. Well then, time to find out what was going on.
“What in the wide world of sports is a-goin’ on here?” I asked sweeping my gaze around and flaring my wings out. I seriously wanted to be able to go an hour without getting knocked out without knowing what was going on.
“These zebras are part of the Peace Corps,” Geoff told me. “They rove around in bands, looking to stop bounty hunters, thieves or other such groups form doing their… nefarious… deeds.”
I looked around me again. “Well, thank you,” I said. They just looked at me harshly. “Um. Yeah. How-“
“If our business here is concluded, we are leaving,” the stallion said, pointing a hoof at the two ponies I had knocked out. Some zebras went over and secured them.
“Thank you so much,” Geoff said to them, and the stallion who had spoken before nodded. With a wave of a hoof, they took off in the direction we had come, leaving just Geoff, Robin, and I to fend for ourselves.
We stared after them for a moment, and I shook my head. “How’d you fall in with that bunch? And seriously, Peace Corps? They beat up those ponies!”
He shook his head, mane flying. “It’s just a name. Yesterday, when I woke up as a zebra, besides being very, very confused, I was also in the middle of the path. They came upon me as I was trying to learn how to walk, and I explained myself to them. It was then that they mentioned your group here, and I put two and two together. I snuck into the hotel they were staying at last night to talk to Robin. Thanks for getting them to stop, by the way.” I shook my head in response, amused.
“Unfortunately, we don’t know where Sam or Chrissie are,” Robin put in. “What do we do?”
I looked around me again. What could we do? It would likely be a good idea to find the missing pair. But how to do that? We needed gear, we needed information, and most importantly, we needed some sort of map. “I think we should continue on to the Hoof. Anyone got any bits?”
Geoff tugged on a little bag I’d missed before. “They gave me some bits for helping them figure out what to do. Why?”
“We need a map, and some travelling gear.” I responded. We really did. “Why don’t we get going? Not sure how much farther it’ll be.” Both equines nodded, and we all turned to start.
“Soo…” Robin started as we walked. I had to make my strides more drawn out so the others wouldn’t fall behind, me being taller and all that. “Zweilous? Really, a Pokémon?”
“What about it?” Geoff asked, confused. I chuckled. Nice to have someone know where I got it from.
“It’s what I’m calling myself now,” I chuckled, looking at Geoff as he took an “ooooohhhh!” expression.
He tossed his head. “Better than Jason. Seriously a terrible name for a dragon.”
“I know!” I said, glad to have someone else think so. “So how long do you guys think we’ll be here? I know, for one, that I’m not too terribly interested in returning to Earth.”
They were silent a moment, and I was just about to look back at them when Robin spoke up. “I’m not really sure. And I’m not sure if I want to stay, either. I mean, Earth wasn’t great to me… but it wasn’t bad to me either.”
“I’d have to say the same,” Geoff said. They were entitled to their own thoughts. Given a choice, I’d gladly stay here in Equestria. It was a lifestyle I had long pondered, and hoped that I would one day achieve, against all hope. Yet here I was.
“I don’t have a lot tying me back home,” I said, looking up to the sky. “Honestly, everything I could want is here. A life to myself, the ability to live how I want, ability to fly…” I trailed off, making my point. I really did like it here – even though I’d already been attacked by violent ponies – “Robin, what happened to the other ponies? Weren’t there more yesterday?”
“They stopped at Crescentville, disagreeing with the bounty hunters’ thoughts on selling us.”
I smiled. Good to know that there were, in fact, good ponies. Two sides to every coin. When you really thought about it, a world like the Equestria portrayed in the show couldn’t really sustain itself. Hell, Ponyville had no idea what a Zebra was, an intelligent creature like them. You had meat eaters, Griffins, Dragons and D-Dogs, and the plant-eaters, the ponies and the zebras. There was bound to be conflict.
Then something occurred to me. “Cases like us,” I mused. “Does that mean that there have been others like us?”
“I don’t know,” Geoff replied. “I talked to the zebras, they said that the notice had been sent out just two years ago – any travelers from worlds NOT Equestria were to be brought to the royal embassy for a reward.”
“Probably had something to do with Chaos showing the place to other worlds,” Robin suggested. I huffed, thinking about it. It sounded right.
After a little while of small talk, buildings started to break over the horizon. We began to encounter ponies on the road who quickly moved as far away as possible on the road when they spotted me. This was bound to be annoying.
Finally, we made it to where the buildings began to pick up off the ground. We saw a few (the writing was English, at least, or perhaps we’d learned to read Equestrian when Chaos sent us here), but not the kind of shop we were searching for.
“What’re you freaks doing here?”
That caught my attention. The entire place was filled with ponies – we had to be the creatures in question. I whirled to face the idiots who thought it’d be a good idea to threaten a dragon.
I came face-to-face with an angry-looking pegasus with ugly-looking shoes on his hooves, likely Equestria’s version of brass knuckles. Behind him were seven other pegasi, all equally dirt bag-looking.
“Minding our own business, like a certain chicken should.”
“You calling me a chicken, lizard?” Shit. I really need to reign in (hah!) on the insults if I was going to get along here. But I’d already thrown it out there – I’d need to back myself up or I’d look weak and we’d make a bigger scene than was already being made.
“Yes, I am, stupid turkey. You really think it’s wise to call a dragon half again your size a ‘lizard’ and a ‘freak’?” To make my point, I coughed out a quick gout of flame onto the ground next to him. He stared at me a moment, then backed away in a manner that didn’t look like retreating. I gotta give it to him – that probably took a lot of practice.
“Stupid flying lizard. You watch your back.” With that, the doofus and his seven lackeys flew off in the direction of the larger buildings, greater Hoofington. I shook my head and looked at Geoff and Robin.
“Keep your eyes open. Lemme know if you see any scummy-looking pegasi so I won’t be taken by surprise. Oh, look, here’s our place.” I was glad I’d decided to look up at the store in front of me – a sign with “Travelling gear, Camping gear, pranking gear” listed on it was painted in a garish orange on a black sign. I had to stoop to do so, but I entered the store.
“Welcome to Woods Goods, how-ow-ow-ow-drake-ow may I help you?” A stallion stuttered upon seeing me. Geoff entered behind me, followed by Robin.
“Just some gear,” Geoff said, giving me a look. Fine, I’d let him speak.
“I’ll just go wait outside,” I said, frowning. I backed out of the store and looked around, both annoyed and amused at the nervous looks I got. From the reactions, I took it that while dragons were rare in the Hoof, it wasn’t unheard of for one to come to the city.
“What brings you to Hoofington?” A voice from my left asked in a tone that I could have recognized in my sleep. I looked to my left to have it confirmed – yep, right next to me inquiring about my presence was none other than a white unicorn mare with a well-cared-for violet mane. Rarity man. Bucking Rarity. Of course, I couldn’t let on that I knew her – I didn’t want to risk another encounter with bounty hunters.
“Just some shopping, Madame,” I replied, ever the gentleman (or was it gentledrake now?).
“Ah! It’s rare to see a dragon in Hoofington, and even rarer to see one with manners like yours.” She looked away and did that thing with her eyebrows I always found hilarious. I needed to be careful, though.
“It’s rare to see someone as cultured as you in a place like the Hoof as well, my lady. May I inquire as to your name?” You want fancy-talk? I GIVE YOU FANCY-TALK.
She looked surprised at my inquiry. Or my manner. I didn’t know. “Why, I am Rarity. I’m in town for a couple of weeks for some shows highlighting my clothing. Normally, I hail from the Canterlot area.”
Hah. I guess Ponyville technically was from the ‘Canterlot Area’. Or maybe she’d moved there. I dunno. “I’m called Zweilous. Pleasure to meet you, Rarity. I’m just in the Hoof to get some travelling gear with my companions before heading out again.”
“Companions? Might I ask with whom you are travelling?”
“I am roving around with a zebra stallion and an earth pony mare, both inside this shop here. I didn’t think my presence in such a small building would be prudent,” I responded, being as truthful as possible. Normally, I really don’t speak like I’m highfalutin’, but hey, it’s really fun if you actually get to occasionally without looking like a total ass.
“Ah! I often envy travelers like yourself, living the life of adventure. Well, I have a schedule to keep, but it was a pleasure to meet you!” And just like that, she sauntered away into the crowds back towards downtown.
A few moments after her departure, I let out a *squee* sound, which caused some passing ponies to look at me like I was out of my gorram mind. I probably was. I heard a door open, and Robin and Geoff exited the store behind me. They were both garbed in coats with tons of pockets, and were carrying bags of… well, I don’t know, the bags were closed. Sue me.
“Ready?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. They nodded, their mouths full. Rolling my eyes, I grabbed the bags from them and tossed them around my neck. The things were quite lightweight. They both smiled thankfully, and we started leaving. “Oh, by the way, I just met Rarity.”
“What!?” They both exclaimed, stopping and staring at me. I chuckled at their responses.
“Yeah, she just said hello to me. We made some small talk, and she went downtown.”
“Yeah, haha. Nice one,” Geoff said sarcastically, rolling his eyes. Robin just smiled and turned forward again
However, just as we hit open road, Geoff was hit from behind by a blur. He tumbled past us, and I recognized one of the pegasi from before.
“Nopony insults our gang and gets away with it!” I heard, just before a hoof smacked me in the side, doing no harm whatsoever. I would have laughed, but instead got angry as they started teaming up on Robin and Geoff, both doing their best to flail around and hit their aggressors.
I was really tired of violence. I’m normally a very passive person who hates violence in all its forms, but FUCKING HELL, these ponies just wouldn’t stop. “GOOD THING I’M NOT A PONY!” I thundered, swiping a pair of pegasi out of the air with my muscular tail. I quickly lunged to Robin and punched her attackers in the head, putting them out of the fight. I turned towards Geoff as two of his attackers lunged at me. I caught both and cracked their heads together, as if I was in some stupid cartoon. Wait, buck, I was.
Seeing his entire troupe go down, the leader suddenly grabbed something flashy from his coat and held it to Geoff’s throat.
“Come any closer, and the zebra’s lifeblood meets dirt,” he said while holding the knife there with a hoof.
I glared at him. No, I didn’t glare at him. I GLARED at him. I could feel my rage building inside me. It’s happened before, where I just get so mad that I have to fight to keep it in me. I’ve only let it out once before, and the asshole on the receiving end of my punch had a bruise for two weeks. This time, I was a dragon, and this… this shitter was holding a knife to one of my friends’ throats.
I felt something growing in me, something other than anger, as my breathing quickened. The pegasus’ eyes widened as he stared at me, and began to shake. All of a sudden, Geoff bit his lip and a drop of red appeared on the knife.
“GET. OFF. OF. THAT. ZEBRA.” I thundered. What happened was not at all what I expected – I felt this whoosh from within me, and the pegasus that had been holding the knife to Geoff’s neck was suddenly blasted away from his position by an unseen force. The pony slammed into a tree behind him and fell to the ground, unconscious.
“Well, none of them are dead,” Geoff said, listening to the breathing of a nearby pegasus. Robin huffed in relief.
“He still out of it?” Geoff asked.
“No, he’s not,” I said, blinking and looking at him. “How the hell did I do that?”
“Hay if I know,” He retorted. “But we should probably get going. Ponies walk this way… they’re going to assume that this is EXACTLY what it is.” He was right. I’d beaten up a bunch of ponies. With them unconscious, there was nothing to say I didn’t just attack them. But… what the buck WAS THAT?
“I’m hungry,” I said as we started moving away from Hoofington. I was – I hadn’t eaten in over a day, and I can’t imagine dragons using little amounts of energy. I walked over and stared at the knife – dragons ate gems. Could I eat metal? Did I want to try a knife?
“Screw it,” I said, and picked the thing up. I chomped the blade off. When I didn’t immediately feel shooting pain as the point dug into my inner cheek, I tried chewing. The blade was ground into a mass of… whatever. Honestly, it didn’t taste bad. It was kind of like bread, but with dirt and blood on it. Blech.
“Did he just eat that knife?” Robin asked, incredulous.
“Yes, I did. I wish you guys would stop talking about me as if I wasn’t there,” I grumped. I may have been grumping, but I’m man enough to admit that I’m grumping. I started walking, and I could tell that they followed when I heard the clip-clop of hooves on the dirt road.
“So… we need to figure out what that was,” Geoff said. I looked at him, using my new, long neck to do so without turning my body.
“You’re still bleeding. Did you buy any-“
“I’ll get it,” Robin said, trotting up to me. I stopped, and she rooted around in one of the bags around my neck. I assume she found what she was looking for, because she stopped quickly. I looked and found her frowning at Geoff, attempting to wrap some gauze around his throat with her hooves.
“Let me,” I said, getting up on my legs and reaching over. “I still have hands.”
I wrapped the gauze snugly against his coat, trying not to choke him. As I worked, he eyed me. I ignored him. He ignored me ignoring him. I ig- buck it.
“I don’t know what it was,” I said as I tied the gauze. “I started getting royally pissed, and then I felt something else within me. I shouted my thing, and then the chicken went flying. Then I was hungry enough to eat a knife. And something else, I’m really hungry.”
Geoff looked at me, a cross look on his face. “What!? I’m seriously hungry. I haven’t touched any food other than that disgusting knife in a day.”
He shook his head. “We’ll get you some food soon. But seriously, you have no clue what that was?”
“Well,” I started. I mean, I had an idea. Two, actually. But both would need trying. “Lemme try some things.”
First, I looked at a tree. Seeking a calm center, I focused and yelled “Fus Ro Dah!” As loud as I could. And was severely disappointed when nothing happened. “Well, I can’t Shout,” I said, frowning.
“I doubted that was it,” Robin put in. “You didn’t use any of the dragon language, you just yelled at him to get off Geoff. Also, it would be incredibly corny and it would get annoying with you shouting all the time.”
I had to agree with her. If not shouting, then maybe my second idea would work. I stopped moving, seeking that calm center again. This time, instead of forcing my energy outward, I built up to it. I steadied my breathing, and eventually felt some sort of power build within me. When I felt that I had gathered myself up enough, I focused my attention on a rock.
“The Game,” I said. With a ‘whoosh,’ the energy left me, and the rock grew to twice its size and turned blue.
“Screw y—woah,” Geoff breathed, staring at the rock. Making sure it wasn’t a fluke, I gathered myself up again, and felt the buildup.
“Cry, baby, cry,” I whispered. The energy left me again, and the rock shot off into the air, letting off little green pulses of light.
“I’m bucking Belgarath.” Shit. Please oh please don’t take that out of context.
“Belgarath?” Robin asked, confusion evident in her tone. Thank God. Or Celestia. Or Chaos. Whatever. Thank God.
“Belgarath. Main character in a series I particularly enjoy. He’s a sorcerer that uses the Will and the Word. Basically, I gather up my will to do something, and speak a word, and it happens.” Gross oversimplification, but oh well.
“I don’t mean to sound whiny… but seriously? You’re a dragon who can fly and use magic and still have hands, and we get stuck as ground-pounders?” Geoff asked, incredulous.
“I’m pretty sure it’s probably something Chaos cooked up to keep us separate,” I responded. I mean, it sounded just like the spirit of discord would do. Spin up some deep jealousy, et cetera et cetera.
“I mean, you’re right, but that doesn’t make it much better,” He grumbled.
We walked a bit more, talking about our old lives. It surprised me how we were all taking this so well. I think that’s a part of being a Brony. We all look at Equestria and say “My, it would be wonderful to live there,” and fantasize endlessly about it. We love the show, we love the characters, and we love what everything represents. Even when the Equestria you end up in is a horrible, twisted and dark version of the one you knew, it’s still sort of a dream come true.
We were walking a while before I asked for the map. Geoff took it out of a pocket and handed it to me. I was surprised at it. It only showed Hoof County, with quite a few towns around greater Hoofington in the middle of the map. Crescentville was located on the map, and I was astounded. It was fairly close to the city on the map, but it was taking us the better part of half a day to reach it at a walk. It meant that Equestria was large- huge even. I couldn’t wait to get my claws on a full map of the world, see if Equestria was the planet or the country.
We kept up our conversation as we plodded along. Robin, as it turned out, was only 17 years old, her birthday only having been a month ago. She had been attending high school, focusing on science classes. Fairly normal girl, overall. Liked her family, had lots of friends, et cetera.
Geoff, on the other hand, lived a different life altogether. He had an apartment of his own and worked as a desk jockey in some company I’d never heard of, grossing a nice salary with commissions. He’d only recently gotten into the brony fandom, and was riding that high we all got into, devouring fan fictions and watching episodes over and over.
“What about you?” Robin asked me as we made our way past Crescentville. We’d considered finding a place to stay there, as the sun was lowering in the sky, but decided that the residents might not find our presence very pleasant, considering I was a dragon and we all were worth quite a bit of money.
I laughed. “Me? I’m not very interesting. Average in high school. I was in college, studying for a computer science degree when I woke up in that room. Complete nerd. Video games, books, internet, card games… the only thing I don’t do is TV. Nothing good on it, anyway. 18 and going nowhere fast.”
“Amen to that,” Geoff laughed.
We walked a while longer, finally deciding to look for a place to stop when the sky took on a reddish hue.
“We should probably find someplace a little off the road. In case somebody is travelling at night,” Robin suggested. Geoff and I agreed. We moved a little off, finding a clearing to sit in.
“There’s a little chill in the air,” Geoff remarked as he hunched up. We sat in a triangle, looking at each other.
“Let me fix that,” I said after a moment. I lumbered off looking for some deadwood. No reason to kill innocent trees.
It also gave me some time to think. What should we do once we found Sam and Chrissie? What could we do? I mean, we weren’t WANTED, but our very presence here in Equestria put us in danger. Geoff and Robin didn’t have anything holding them here. We could look for a way to go back.
“Unlikely,” a voice behind me said. I whirled around, but nothing was there. I’m not stupid.
“Chaos,” I responded in greeting, turning back around. I began to pick up some pieces of deadwood.
“Ah, Jason. Or Zweilous now? Humorous. It’s really unlikely that you’ll find a way back to earth.”
“Oh? Why’s that?” I asked as I scanned around. Fire would be good. Keep the chill away, as it were. I couldn’t feel it, likely because of the fire inside me, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t help.
“There are very few beings who can do it. One thinks it’s funny that you’re here causing trouble. The other two, well, it looks like they put a bounty out on you. There’s a fourth, but he wouldn’t think twice about you. There are maybe two or three others, but they don’t have a freaking clue about HOW.” He sounded amused.
“Mmhmm. Looks like we’ll have to appeal to one of them,” I answered disinterestedly. That might be another piece of firewood.
“You know, you shouldn’t ignore me,” He said, appearing in front of me. I really don’t know what I expected. He looked exactly as discord had. I dropped the firewood I’d been carrying, irritated.
“What, do you want me to look you in the eye? Here,” I said in a voice that made my sound as if I was speaking to a small child. “What is it you want, mister Chaos? Do you want me to be irritated with you? Here,” I finished. I put a little pout out, and gave him a stern look. “Mister Chaos, please don’t try to mess with my feelings. You’re wasting soundwaves.”
He laughed at that. “Oh, Jason, I knew you’d be fun, but not this much! If sarcasm could kill, I think I’d be a puddle of mush by now.”
“Now, if you’ll be so kind, leave me alone so I can make a fire to warm up my friends.” I gathered up the firewood again and brushed past him, lumbering off on two legs.
I just heard a laugh that echoed through the woods.
Robin and Geoff were silent as I entered the clearing again. I dropped the firewood down and began to arrange it into a nice pattern. I glanced at them, and knew that they’d heard the laugh. I didn’t want to talk about it. No matter how much I wanted to look away from it, Chaos had gotten to me. His mere presence was enough to ruin my mood. Nothing had ever been able to do that to me before.
I didn’t like it. “You guys mind finding some rocks to go around this fire? I don’t want to do any more damage to the ground than we have to.”
They got up wordlessly and walked to separate parts of the forest. They didn’t seem to want to talk, either. I’d address it in the morning. I managed to make a nice teepee of sticks. The two equines were back quickly, and deposited some rocks at my feet. I frowned at them, but set it up. They were being a little ungrateful, but I let it go. I encircled the pile with the stones and prepared myself. I inhaled and coughed a little fireball. Soon, the teepee of sticks blazed up in a mist of silver flame, spreading the clearing in light and warmth. I stared into the depths.
I was living the dream. In Equestria, travelling around, with people who got my references for the most part. I could protect myself, I could fly (once I learned how), and do magic. We were safe for the time being, and we had sort of a plan to find the rest of us.
So why did I feel like crap all of a sudden? Was it that Chaos was using us somehow? No, I didn’t care about that.
The fight. The wagon.
I stared into the fire with its strange, flickering silvery light. I’d come to a place that I thought would be the most wonderful, peaceful place in the multiverse. Instead, I’d been dropped into an unforgiving land full of creatures that were more outright hostile that humanity. At least humans gave off a façade of civility and were occasionally nice to each other. The only kindness shown me was Rarity back in the Hoof when she had a short conversation.
I was not, by nature, a violent person. I quit playing football because smashing myself bodily at another person brought me no pleasure at all. Even when I play RPGs, I do my very best to help people and avoid fights because I can’t bring myself to be a bad person, even against virtual lines of code.
And now, I’d witnessed a bunch of ponies dragged off by a group of vigilante zebras and beaten up a gang of pegasi. I hadn’t batted an eye. I had marked it up as to delayed panic or shock, or perhaps some sort of ‘high’, but no.
Fighting back had been my first reaction. When the pegasi attacked, I should’ve tried tact. I should’ve tried guile to get away from the bounty hunters. But instead, I had attacked. I had forced my way on them, forcing them to get out of my path.
I scowled at the fire, noting that Geoff and Robin were lying on their sides, sleeping peacefully. I’m a big, bad dragon. I fight ponies and don’t afraid of anything.
I reached in and grabbed a small stick out of the fire, noting the pleasurable warmth that went with it. I turned over the small piece of wood in my claws, examining the burning bark. It was so beautiful. The blackened bit of wood surrounded by the ghostly aura of fire, playing off the violet scales of my claw.
I crushed the thing, letting the ash fall through my claw.
No more. I had hurt ponies. With these claws. With the power within me, I had nearly killed another. It won’t happen again.
I started upon hearing my new name. Blinking, I looked over at Robin, who was rubbing sleep out of her eyes.
I grunted noncommittally.
“Have you been up all night?”
I wasn’t really sure. I think I’d gone into one of my ‘dazes’, where I just think myself into a state somewhere between sleep and consciousness, both too far off to call it either. It usually happens when something is particularly bothering me.
“No,” I responded. I really felt a little more rested. Maybe not as much as if I had actually been in dream-land, but still.
Robin looked like she doubted me, but let it go. “About last night…”
I shook my head. There was nothing to say. “Chaos taunted me. I let it get to me. The end.”
She frowned, like she had more to say, but too bad. “I don’t want to talk about it, Robin.”
I set myself to gathering our scattered things up, noting that Geoff had his eyes open. He’d heard the exchange. “C’mon, Geoff, we gotta get going.”
The zebra rolled over and got to his hooves, looking around. I was glad nothing had attacked us in the night – I wasn’t sure I could protect us at this point. I needed something to take my mind off of brooding.
“I’m going to try to fly,” I announced loudly. It seemed like a good idea.
“That’s a terrible idea,” Robin responded to my announcement.
“You haven’t eaten in days, except for a little knife. You need some food in you before you do something like that.”
“Yeah, and if I fly around, I can find some food.”
She stared at me a moment, and begrudgingly nodded. “Fine.”
Both equines sauntered off to watch me in the middle of the clearing. What do I do? Do I just flap my wings? I extended them, relishing the feeling, finding them extremely stiff after several days of neglect. I moved them slowly, flexing the muscles and finding out what they felt like. I started fanning myself as the wings moved faster and faster, wind buffeting the clearing.
Feeling giddy, I pumped my wings as hard as I could. Over and over, huge gusts of air hit the ground. Feeling it in my bones, I jumped into the air as I pumped. Slowly, I began to ascend.
Jeebus, this felt amazing! A grin popping onto my before-somber face, I felt on instinct what I had to do. I tipped myself slightly backwards, and I shot off into the air.
I was flying. Truly, truly flying. Not being assisted by an airplane, not being lifted by another creature – flying all on my own. I felt the wind passing across my scales, and it felt wonderful. I soared around, wondering at the feeling. I could see Hoofington in the far distance, along the horizon. I saw little specks walk out of their houses in Crescentville and stop in the middle of the street. I assumed the ponies were staring at me. With a grin, I finally descended, that giddy feeling not leaving me. I found the clearing where I had left my companions and descended. I slowed down my wings, letting myself down to the ground slowly. With finality, I dropped the last couple feet to the ground and folded my wings to my sides.
Geoff and Robin looked at me expectantly. I looked at them and gave a big, toothy grin. “That was amazing!”
“See anything?” Robin asked. Oops. My original purpose.
“Well,” I started. “No… but, I have an idea. Why don’t you two start along the path while I fly above, looking for stuff? I can see trouble long before it arrives, and I could possibly see any interesting things, or maybe even Sam or Chrissie.”
“It’s a good idea,” Geoff said, looking at Robin. It looked like she wanted to disagree, but nodded.
“Alright.” They gathered up their packs, and the three of us walked back to the dirt road that marked our passage north. After a short while, I stepped back and launched myself into the air. As soon as I was above my companions’ heads and soaring through the air, that giddy feeling came back. It’s probably because I’m nervous about heights.
Sounds weird, doesn’t it? I don’t like heights, but I’ve always wanted to fly. It’s illogical, but it’s the way it is. I’ve thought it through, but it still doesn’t make sense. I just leave it as it is – I’m confusing enough to myself as it is.
My eyes scanned the road forward and back, looking for travelers. Occasionally, I would spot a group, but after looking closer, they appeared to be normal travelers, nothing I’d need to attend to.
However, a couple hours later, my eyes spotted some movement in the forest that wasn’t normal. I squinted, focusing, and found myself staring at a wounded deer prancing around a bear. Realizing the creature was in some trouble, I put myself in a dive to the pair. As I fell, I tried to aim myself right at the bear, hoping to get there in time to stop it.
Unfortunately, even as the leaves on the trees began to become distinct things, the bear’s claws found their target, sinking into the deer’s neck and tearing its throat out. Not even a moment later, I slammed into the ground with enough force to knock the bear off of its feet and make the trees nearby lose some of their leaves.
It turned to me and roared, preparing to charge me. I didn’t want more violence – the deer was dead, and there was no longer any reason to fight the bear. I roared nearly three times as loud as the bear and flared out my wings, trying to look as ferocious as possible.
It worked. The creature’s eyes took on a look of fear, and the bear loped into the forest. Once it was out of sight, I folded my wings and looked at the deer on the ground.
The thing was dead. Blood was leaking out of the wound the bear had created, and its eyes had become completely glassy.
Dammit. Didn’t make it in time to save one measly deer. How could I save my friends if they got into trouble like that? I had to find some way to get to the ground faster than just falling.
Speaking of them, the pair burst into view a few moments later.
“Zwei! Whats – Oh. Oh dear.” Robin looked like she wanted to be sick at the sight of the corpse. Geoff just looked angrily at me. Why was he angry? It’s not like I – oooohhhhh, they didn’t know why I’d dived.
“A bear was attacking the deer. I tried to save it, but the bear killed it before I could hit the ground.”
Geoff’s scowl became a frown, but took on a thoughtful look. “Well…” he began, putting a hoof to his chin. “I guess that solves that problem.”
“What problem?” What? What was he talking about?
“Well, the deer’s dead. Nothing we can do about it. You need food.”
Oh. I hadn’t even thought of that. I looked back at the carcass. The deer really was dead, and eating it would preserve my life. Leaving the body would disrespect the creature’s life. “You’re right,” I said. I walked over to the deer and picked it up. However much I was hungry, I was not going to eat this thing whole. Disgusting.
“If you’re squeamish, I suggest you look away.”
Robin walked away as I proceeded to make the deer edible to my… refined… palate. Soon, the skin was buried and I held in front of me a large chunk of meat. I coughed out a fireball, and found that I had burned it.
“Damn. Oh well,” I grumbled as I took a bite.
It tasted like… well, venison. A little charred, but still venison. I surprised myself by going through the entire buck, leaving nothing behind. I was able to eat the bones, but found that I still didn’t like marrow. Yech. Marrow.
I looked at the two equines who were chewing on some grass. They’d told me that grass tasted sort of like oatmeal, but dry, and not unpleasant. I looked back at the rack the buck had left, and thought another moment.
“Hey, Geoff, can you come over here a moment?”
He complied, careful to avoid the little patch of blood where the deer had fallen. I picked up the rack and held it against his foreleg. It MIGHT work. I looked at it, and snapped off a larger piece of the horn, one with a very pointy end. I held that little piece up to Geoff’s foreleg, and smiled. I looked at his face, and found that he had realized what I was doing. He nodded. I unwrapped the gauze around his neck (the wound had stopped bleeding the night before, but we felt it prudent to leave the gauze on in case some night-crawlers got curious), and cut the bit with the blood off. I then used the rest of it to tie the horn against his leg. I stepped back.
“Try a jab,” I said. Geoff tensed up, and then stuck a hoof out in front of him. The point of the horn shot forward with it, and looked quite dangerous.
“Now you can protect yourself,” I said, smiling.
“Yep. It’s not very heavy, and we might want to make something specifically for this later, but I’m liking it. Can you put one on my other leg too?”
Robin watched as I wrapped another pointy bit of horn on Geoff’s other leg, and asked if she could try it. Since she was slightly shorter, I had to put it higher up on her leg. Unfortunately, that was the last pointy end we had, so she had to settle with just one.
“What should we call them, then?” Geoff mused. He looked at his leg, swishing the point around.
I thought a moment. Stabbers? Pointy-antler-things? Jabbers? Oh. Ooooooh. “Hoof-hooks,” I suggested.
Robin’s eyebrow rose. “I like it,” she responded, testing the point on her hard hoof.
“Hoof-hooks it is, then,” Geoff said. “We’d better get going.”
The two equines returned to the road and I launched back into the air, continuing my “patrol.”
The rest of the day passed quite uneventfully, with my friends encountering only a few travelers going south towards Hoofington.
“What news?” I asked as I prepped a fire in the clearing we had stopped in. The sun had set, and the last vesties of the great ball of light were creating great streaks of fiery red light in the sky.
“Nothing of note, really. I did, however,” Geoff said, reaching over and grabbing a piece of parchment in his mouth. I reached out and grabbed it when it was offered. “I bought a map of Equestria off a pegasus.”
I immediately grinned. Ooooh, I was finally going to get to see how big this place really was. I didn’t doubt it was going to be damn big, judging from the size of Hoofington. However, my anticipation didn’t prepare me for the sheer…
Equestria was huge. After a short search, I found ‘Hoofington County’ marked in the east. The map centered around Canterlot, which was very nearly in the heart of Equestria. To the south of the country was a body of water, to the east was a great desert named ‘Zebrica’, and to the west lied a land similar to Equestria called Predatalia. However, to the far north of Equestria was a great mass of white labeled the arctic, with a small demarcation about ‘Crystal Empire’ or something. I vaguely recalled something about crystal ponies having something to do with season three of the show.
But, more on the size of the place. From the look of the map, Hoofington County was one of eleven counties, and was the smallest one of them all. Canterlot county was, of course, the biggest, with a mountain range going through its western territory. Basing my knowledge on what little we had travelled, I figured it would take the better part of two or three months to go from one end of Equestria to the other on hoof.
“I’m not sure we should deviate from our course,” I said, frowning. We had no idea of knowing what we would run into, nor what would happen if we changed direction.
“You’re probably right. According to the map, Manehattan is to the north, and appears to be a major hub. We could get some information there,” Geoff suggested.
It made sense. If there was any parallel at all to Earth, Manehattan was bound to be a huge population center. We could get some news, some directions, and maybe even some work.
Robin was nodding. “I agree. We can’t really know where Sam or Chrissie are, so we might as well get ourselves set up for a search.”
The fire ready, I set it aflame. The two equines immediately scooted closer to it, hooves held out towards the fire’s silvery glow. I sat back, wondering exactly how we were going to make it to Manehattan County, let alone Manehattan itself. The Hoof was huge, and it would likely be another day until we reached the next settlement on the map, a little place named Ridgeburg.
That brought another thing to mind. As a dragon, it was likely that I would have trouble interacting with the ponies. Dragons weren’t treated with outright hostility, apparently(discounting the gang that we’d beat up), but it was obvious I made the equines uncomfortable with my presence. What could I do about it? I really didn’t want to have to sit out in the wilderness every time my companions entered a city or town.
My thoughts drifted back towards my power. Was it really the Will and the Word? I mean, it was very much like it, but it didn’t seem to be the same thing. For example, the characters in the books with it could send out their minds to probe things, or speak with their minds with only thoughts. I’d tried during the past day, but found I could do none of that.
But I could manipulate things. I’d messed with some of the things on the road the day before. Could I… could I possibly disguise myself when we entered city limits?
Only one way to find out. In my mind, I pictured a pony. It was the one I had always pictured, a vilet pegasus with a shock of white and purple hair. I found it difficult to maintain, because my mind kept wanting to wander. Angry a little, I poured my thoughts into the image. I Looked at every little detail, adding in the things I had noticed since coming to this world. After a few moments, I found myself looking at the image, making sure it was all right.
I began to gather up my will, experiencing that strange feeling build within me. With finality, I imagined myself being poured into the image, simultaneously breathing “change.”
I felt the strangest sensation. For a moment, I felt as if I was being torn into a million pieces and being reconstructed from the ground up. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it wasn’t the greatest feeling, either. After a short moment, I felt completely different. I explored the sensations that I felt. I had four legs, but I no longer felt the sensations provided me by my claws. I opened my eyes and found myself staring at my friends. They were staring back at me.
“Did it work?” I asked, finding my voice the same as it had been as a dragon. I looked around, marveling at the feeling of being just as tall as my friends.
“Did WHAT work?” Geoff asked, still staring.
“I didn’t want to alarm the ponies every time we went to a population center, so I was seeing if I could disguise myself.” I raised a hoof up to my face, amazed. So weird! It felt like instead of a shoulder and elbow, the pony leg had two wrist-like joints, allowing for a huge range of motion.
“Well…” Robin started, then looked away. I looked at her, alarmed. Was something wrong?
“Mostly, yeah, it worked. Buuuut… there’s two things that didn’t seem to change.”
I blinked, worried. Was something really wrong? I opened my mouth, but was interrupted by Geoff.
“Your wings and your eyes,” he blurted. “Your eyes… well, they’re still slitted. Like a dragon’s. And… your wings.”
Frowning, I opened a wing, finding the muscles much the same as a dragon’s. Looking to the side, I was shocked to find that I lacked feathers like a normal pegasus. My wings had stayed as they were when I was a dragon, all leathery and such. “Well, then. Let’s fix this.”
I brought up the image of the pony again, paying special attention to the eyes and wings. Focusing on them, I gathered my will. “Fix'd,” I said.
I had the changing feeling again, and stared at my companions. “Well?” I inquired.
Geoff shook his head, and I frowned. It appeared that I would never be able to hide my species completely. The best I could do is make myself seem less threatening. Oh, well. I changed myself into my dragon form, finding that I didn’t even need to visualize it, I settled down, ready for a nice night of sleep.
I awoke in the morning with soreness as a companion. It came as a surprise to me, and I couldn’t help but groan as I sat up and massaged my aching wings. Sweet Celestia, I was stupid.
Geoff was already awake, padding around the camp. Upon hearing my groan, he looked at me and gave a goofy grin. “I suppose you didn’t think of the fact that you’d been flying all day and never previously flown in your life.”
I waved a claw at him, brushing him off. My wings HURT. I didn’t think I’d be doing any flying that day at all. I looked around and saw Robin shaking herself awake. “Where to today?” She asked.
“Continue north, I guess,” I responded. “Hope we find something soon.” I stretched. Ugh, moving my wings at all was painful. “I do believe I’ll be walking with you two today.”
Geoff snorted. “You’ll probably scare anyone we come across.”
I gave him a dirty look, and we gathered ourselves up. I kicked some dirt on the fire, and then we were off. The dirt path that led (sort of) north was quite wide, easily wide enough for the three of us, even when one of us was a dragon. After walking a while, I found that my tail swung back and forth quite a bit and with a lot of force, so I made sure never to have Geoff or Robin behind me. We were silent most of the time – there wasn’t much to be said. Just walk, get to where we were going.
The trees were pleasantly changing, one of the few happy parts about autumn. The forest was full of color, and it only looked more so with the cartoon-esque feel. Such a pure world. Untainted by the reach of civilization, it seemed the world was a happy place. That’s not to say the people on Earth can’t be happy, it’s just that it felt easier to just let go of my worries in Equestria. Or whatever this world was called.
Of course, this happy feeling was quite fleeting. It left me again to focus on Sam and Chrissie – I may not owe anything to them, but they were aliens as well, and could be in danger.
It was at this point that we spotted a small wagon far ahead. On a whim, I breathed out a word and changed into Pony form, faltering just a bit as I adjusted to the new shape. Neither of my companions said anything and just gave me a quick glance. I stretched my wings, noting that they were still just as sore. Well, then.
As we got closer to the wagon, I could see that something was wrong. One of the ponies in the back was clutching a hoof, and a zebra in front of it, pulling it, looked awfully hungry. Once in range, I spoke up. “Hello! Are you okay?”
The zebra stopped, and two ponies came out from behind the cart. A cyan stallion approached us, fixing me with a strange look.
“We’re just escaped slaves on our way to Hoofington,” he intoned, sounding tired. I’m not sure how my face looked just then, but he took a step back.
“Um… ah, well, Hoofington is-“
“Not that. Where are the slavers?” I could feel Geoff’s eyes burning a hole in the back of my head.
Hearing my tone, the stallion blanched, noticeably losing color. “Base of Snowpeak.”
“Where is Snowpeak?”
“Biggest mountain in the Hoofington County.” He pointed a hoof at a mountain to the northeast. “We’ve been walking ‘bout half a day. Nasty dogs.”
Diamond dogs. Figured. It’s always them.
“Hoofington’s nearly two days out. Just go south,” I said to him, then started forward on the path again. I heard the wagon start moving.
“Jason,” Geoff said behind me. I stopped and looked at him. “You can’t seriously be thinking of going to those slaving dogs and killing them.”
“Going to kill them, I mean.”
“They’re slavers, Geoff. I’m going to destroy them and their operation.”
“What? You haven’t been a dragon a week and now you’re going after experienced fighters in order to save people you don’t even know? What the hell!”
“I can’t sit by and let it happen, not while I have the power to save them. If I walk by this, I’ll just be like any other enabler.”
Geoff shook his head, mane flying about. “No! We’ve gotta get ourselves established, hopefully find the other girls, then maybe we can help out like this.”
“And how much suffering will be perpetuated in the meantime? No. If I’m going to live here, I want better neighbors.”
Geoff narrowed his eyes at me. “If you’re going to be like that… I hope to see you in Manehattan.” Geoff walked off, tail swishing. My eyes wandered to the antlers on his legs, and I figured he’d be okay. I gave Robin a look.
She seemed torn. “Robin, whatever you decide is fine. My path is likely to be far more dangerous.”
After a moment’s deliberation, she frowned. “Geoff may need help. If he gets attacked on the road…”
I nodded and walked into the trees toward Snowpeak Mountain, not looking back. Just a couple of days in and I’d already alienated my companions. But this was too important. I swore to myself long ago… what I swore was unimportant. But this would not stand. With just a moment’s thought, I whispered out a word and swapped my form yet again with that of a dragon’s and pushed through the forest. I worked at my wings, hoping to alleviate some of the soreness.
I didn’t think it was a stretch to say that I was in a foul mood. I stomped through the forest, away from the path, toward the mountain. I tried to cut out my thoughts as I approached the behemoth, instead trying to focus on what I was going to do. I really, REALLY didn’t want to get in a big fight. If possible, I hoped to scare the dogs into submission.
As I got closer to Snowpeak (real original name), I began to get whiffs of something… quite unpleasant. I really hoped that it wasn’t the slave camp, but I wasn’t going to assume anything. I quit the quick, thrashing movements and started to slowly stalk forward, hoping to pick out signs of life before I was discovered.
Hell, what was I going to say? Hey, I’m gonna ask you to let all your slaves go, how’s that sound? Oh, some escapees told me you were… wait. Those escaped slaves seemed awfully casual about it. Seriously, how does that work? You’re a slave, and you escape, and you just go about your business? How hostile was this world, exactly?
I’d thought Equestria was paradise, but Chaos had told us to throw that view away. Why hadn’t I? Was I still hoping beyond hope that perhaps, just maybe this world could be kinder than Earth? That maybe things could be better?
Just because I had a new start doesn’t mean that my surroundings were new. If this world was filled with shit… then I’m just going to have to change it.
Moving forward slowly, I eventually came upon the ending of the tree line. Shadows were short, so I stayed in a thicker bundle of trees to keep my bulk hidden. Peering forward, I took stock.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to take in. There was a large wall built with spiked tree trunks, with three towers in sight. Each tower had a Diamond Dog guard, and all three of them seemed alert.
‘Guard must have changed recently…’
I inched forward, thinking of a way through. Dragons aren’t built for stealth. With a moment’s thought, I decided on a quick plan – to break my way in and hope for the best.
Yeah, great “plan.” I’m not a strategist, and I honestly put things into the hands of Fate far more often than I truly should. With a great shout (I kind of like how loud I can be now) I burst from the trees, crossing the open ground to the wall. As the dogs began to send the alert, I raked my claws across the wood, damaging the wall.
That wasn’t working, so I breathed a small gout of flame onto the surface. Even breathing in for the blast was unpleasant, because the rank smell was so pervasive.
I felt the first impact quite clearly – something smashed into my right shoulder. Sparing a glance, an arrow had bounced off one of my scales. I shoved a clawed fist into the burning timbers, and tore at them. Weakened by my silvery fire, they came apart easily. I jumped through the hole I made, and I stopped short.
Nearly all over the little compound (which, I noted dispassionately, had several entrances to caves inside the mountain) were ponies and dogs of differing varieties. What got me to stop my motion, however, was a single emaciated little colt staring at me next to a pegasus mare, eyes quivering in fear.
I couldn’t make any judgments right there, but dozens of different reasons for his behavior ran through my head. However, I quickly chose the most logical one:
A dragon was attacking his home.
I made sure to give him exactly that impression. I roared as some of the dogs assembled together, pointing spears at me. I felt several more arrows hit my side.
I sneered and put on a malevolent face. “Bring whoever runs this sorry camp out here. Now.”
Instead of answering, one off to the side threw his spear at me like a javelin. I looked at it and swatted it aside. How to show I meant business without resorting to killing anyone? A show of force?
I focused on the one who had thrown the spear and voiced a single word after bringing my ‘will’ to bear.
A burst of motion shot from me and hit the dog straight-on. He sailed through the air and hit a wall. I was relieved to see him begin to rub his head as he slid down it in an almost comical manner.
“Who else wants to play?”
None of the dogs did anything, and I took the opportunity to look around. Many of the ponies had gathered around the entrances to the caves in the mountain, and were looking at me in abject terror. I couldn’t really blame them, but I hoped I could gain their trust.
“Now. Go get your leader, or Alpha, or whatever leads your sorry bunch.”
One of the dogs loped off inside the mountain, leaving me to face off with the dogs. My ears, much more sensitive than they had been when I had been a human picked up the sound of several combatants moving behind me. I flared my wings out, spreading a huge gust of air that knocked over some of the carts in the opening.
Some of the carts held gems, while some seemed to hold ores. All of them led back into the mountain, and I had to assume they went somewhere. Maybe they were sold to smugglers, or launderers, or any number of people.
Eventually, the dog that had loped into the mountain came back out with a styled-looking yellow Earth Pony stallion.
I narrowed my eyes. I had suspected some sort of devious Alpha dog, but I had not even thought a pony would enslave his own kind like that. I shouldn’t have been surprised at that, given humans’ willingness to commit that same atrocity among ourselves.
“I would like to know what a literate dragon is doing inside the walls of a sanctioned institution,” the stallion spoke. He had a commanding voice, a voice that was used to getting what it demanded. In other words, he spoke like he owned the world and didn’t give a damn what you thought about it. I didn’t like him already.
“If by sanctioned you mean ready for demolition, then I’ll have you know that I’m the one who’s going to destroy this operation.”
The pony laughed, his styled mane shaking. “I run the biggest mining operation in Hoofington county, no, the entire northeast. I hardly believe that anyone would want that shut down.”
My mind was going a million thoughts a minute. Sanctioned? This operation was known?
Equestria willingly allowed slavery?
“It appears we broke it.”
Wha- okay, enough of that.
So if Equestria was okay with slavery, I guess I had more to do than I thought I had.
But, more on the situation at hand.
“So, mister yellow-ass, what made you get into slavery?”
The stallion laughed. “First insults, and then asks personal questions? You intrigue me, Dragon. If I didn’t know better I’d say you were stalling.”
Dammit. I needed time to think. Okay, so maybe just charging in willy-nilly was a really, REALLY bad idea, but I’m just not a strategist. I improvise, it’s my specialty. Obviously.
“It just doesn’t seem like a profession that many decent people get into.”
He stared at me with the same emotion as before, but I detected a slight hardening around the eyes. “I provide a service to Equestria, one that is sorely needed in this time of need.”
I snorted, but kept quiet at that otherwise. Slavery is never the answer. Hell, it should never be an option. People who ever consider it in any way okay need to have their minds wiped with bleach. But his comment put something else in my mind – time of need? What the hell was going on in this world? I knew next to nothing about Equestria, and I needed to learn, fast.
“Those who sacrifice liberty for security…”
I tensed, getting ready to spring into action. I was going to knock out the earth pony, blow through the dogs and fight my way into the mine, freeing as many slaves as I could. I just had to be ready.
The stallion seemed curious as to the end of my statement. I wasn’t going to leave him hanging.
“Deserve neither.” I shot forward, instinctively lashing out with my tail.
That is what would have happened, had I been able to move. I started to panic as I realized that I was immobile, and I struggled against some unseen force.
“You’re intelligent, Drake, and I never expected one of you to delve so deeply into philosophy, but you’re dreadfully naïve. Magic restrains – just one or two near a species to which it’s attuned will render you impotent. Guards, take him to the guest room and secure him. I’ll be down to talk with our new guest later.”
Mind reeling, I felt numb as I was lifted into the air by no less than seven Diamond Dogs. Some part of my mind made a joke about gaining some weight. I watched closely as I was hauled into the dark mine. We travelled through several ‘hallways,’ kept lit by torches placed periodically on the walls. I also noted several ventilation shafts cut into the ceiling, or at least that’s what I thought they were.
Eventually, the little procession (the dogs carrying me were sweating up a storm, and it stank really badly) made it to a chamber containing a large bed, some drawers and several nice-looking furnishings. In other words, a guest room. The guards threw me on the bed and placed several strange-looking pillars around me. Three of them then left the room, and the other four stayed near, completely silent.
“So,” I began, glad to still have the ability to talk and to move my eyes. Apparently, while they retrained me, whatever the restraints did allowed me communication and sensory perception. “How’s the food?”
I didn’t get any response. Either they were complete idiots or very well-trained. Though I wanted to deny it, it was likely the latter. I felt monumentally stupid – what the fuck did I do to get here? Shot into a world I barely know, leave the only friends I had, and attack a fortified settlement. That’s what I did. Glad I could remember simple things like that.
Eventually, after a while of waiting (telling time down here is kind of impossible) the stallion entered the room, escorted by two diamond dogs wielding wicked-looking spears. I hoped torture wasn’t on the schedule.
“So, what is a dragon doing attacking my property?”
How to answer the question. Do I answer legitimately? Do I evade it? Nope. Snark time.
“Oh, I was just on my way from a “Everyone is special” party thrown by a Doctor Seapony when I thought ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to go fuck up a slaving operation?’” I know I got the quote wrong, even with the edits. It’s not like I could access the fucking internet.
The stallion laughed. “Oh, a wit on this one! Well, let’s start off civilized and slow then. My name is Spades.” He made a motion toward his flank, upon which a spade was displayed. I assume it had something to do with beating his ‘employees.’
“Well, slaver, the name is Zweilous.”
“Predation? Your accent is hidden awfully well if you’re from Predatalia.”
He looked at me strangely. “Where is America?”
“Somewhere where slavery is treated like it should be.”
“Oh, and how is that?”
“A crime against life itself.”
The stallion sighed and sat down. “Alright, we’re going to get nowhere if you’re going to constantly be at each other’s throats like this. Can we simply have a nice, informative talk here? Being antagonistic will get you nowhere, drake.”
As much as I wanted otherwise, I had to admit he was right. I might as well gather as much information as I could.
“Fine. What’s your question?”
“Where is this ‘America?’ I thought I knew all the lands on Equis.”
Equis. Now I knew the name of this world for sure. “America is quite far off, and you could never hope to reach it.”
“Nope. Question for a question. What do you mine here?”
Spades regarded me evenly, as if sizing me up yet again. I had no doubt that he would be – I was certainly in no position to be taking control of a conversation, let alone denying him anything.
I might never have been in a situation like this, but I’ve read books… and books and books, and I’ve actually managed to translate that to real life. I can read people fairly well, and I was starting to read ponies as well.
“So. What do you mine here?”
“Gems, for the most part. Occasionally we strike a vein of iron or such that we drain. Why did you act so shocked when you found out that this was a slave operation?”
I almost smirked, knowing that question was going to come along sometime.
“Where I come from, slavery is an abomination and hasn’t been an accepted part of life for almost a hundred and fifty years.”
He frowned, and opened his mouth to speak again, but was interrupted by the door opening. A dog poked its head in and growled something to the pony, whose eyes opened wide. “I’ll be there immediately,” he responded to whatever the dog had said to him. Giving me a quick glance, he left the room, bringing about an oppressive quiet as I contemplated my situation.
It’d been quite fast. I went in intending to help and all I’d done was get captured. That’s what I got for not having a plan. Sometimes, the ability to make up ideas on the spot was a great thing, but not when strategizing beforehand could remove the need for improvisation completely. So what could I do? I couldn’t really move, even though I felt like I could. It’s just that when I told my muscles to work, they didn’t respond.
So I waited. I’m not really sure how long I waited, seeing as the sun wasn’t present underground and there was no clock in the room, but eventually Spades re-entered the room.
“Apologies for the wait, but there was an issue to take care of. Now, I wish to treat you like a guest. If you promise not to cause trouble, and I will take you at your word as much as I can, as you seem like an honorable creature, I will reduce the dampeners so that you can move around as much as you like in this room.”
I gritted my teeth, but I had to agree, or I definitely wouldn’t be able to do anything. “Alright. I won’t cause trouble.”
Spades smiled, something that made me want to hate the situation even more. “Good, I’ll send some of my workers in to make the change.”
The piss-colored stallion left the room, and a short while later a couple dogs entered carrying some odd-colored stones. They went around burying them into the walls at precisely spaced intervals (they were using some instrument I couldn’t figure out). Eventually, they picked up the suppressors on either side of me and left the room.
I lifted a claw experimentally. When it obeyed me, I gave a hesitant grin. This was a small concession. No matter how nice this was, I was still a prisoner. What I had to try next was magic.
I gathered in my will and focused on a small patch of dirt in a corner. In my mind, I pictured the dirt turning purple. When I felt I had brought enough of myself to bear, and breathed out the word “Change.”
Nothing happened. So I supposed that meant that the dampeners worked. I could move and do simple things, but magic was lost to me as long as those things were in the walls. I didn’t know what would happen if I touched one, so I chose not to start digging.
There was really only one thing to do. I laid down on the bed again, and drifted off to sleep.
Over the next several weeks, it became routine. I would waste time in my ‘room,’ and Spades would come in to question me. We learned from each other, but I carefully never revealed my status as an alien. If that was let out, I feared that he would do with me as those bounty hunters had wanted to – sell me, or something like that, and then I would never be able to help.
I learned much more about Equis. It was a land of turmoil and savagery. Though Equestria was mostly tamed (I nearly laughed when he said that – if he called that forest tamed, he had another thing coming), the lands outside of it were pits of despair. Predatalia was in the west(I already knew this), and was a conglomerate of Diamond Dogs, Drakes, who were the minority, and Gryphons, and it was about three-quarters the size of Equestria. Zebrica to the east was mostly filled with Zebras (big surprise there), though the southern portion of it was a large section of rainforest mostly populated by the Panther race.
To the north was an expanse of snow and ice that had always been labeled as the Crystal Empire, though no one knew why. I conjectured to myself that it was likely another thing along the lines of Nightmare Moon or Discord – imprisoned for a long time, only to reappear sometime in the future.
Equestria was at war with the gryphons of Predatalia over some sort of land dispute, and was in desperate need of gems to power their war machines and minerals to create their tools of war.
Though I was shocked to find the land at war (it sounded like some bad fan-fic, honestly), it made the lack of order on the roads make sense, as well as the allowing of slavery.
Don’t get me wrong. Just because it made sense to me didn’t mean I was going to allow it to continue.
Eventually, I learned some pretty interesting things.
During one conversation, I surreptitiously began questioning him about the things I “knew” about, such as the Mane 6 or the princesses.
“So. Who rules Equestria?”
Spades was taken aback by the question. “You don’t know? The whole of Equis should know that question.”
“Call me a hermit. Well?”
“Equestria is a diarchy, ruled by the princesses Luna and Celestia.”
“Princesses? Are they sisters?”
“Gods, no, that would be incredibly awkward. They’ve been married for several thousand years now.”
Well, that definitely got my attention. They weren’t sisters. I wanted to question it, but realized that it was an edit Chaos would likely make to show little girls this world. Though we’re improving, humanity hasn’t opened up enough to outright leave behind its fear of homosexuality.
“Seems like a long time. Surely they’ve had some violent spats.”
He grimaced a moment. “Yes. About five hundred years ago, Luna became angry with the way she was treated by the citizenry, and caused the sun to stay down for several months. It was… ugly. After quite a while of speaking, Celestia was forced to send her wife to the moon. Recently she returned and was subdued by Celestia’s protégé, some unicorn by the name of Twilight Sparkle. She also had some help, but they’re mostly unimportant in the grand scheme of things.”
“You sound like you were there. Five hundred years ago, I mean.”
His left eye twitched. I’m sure I saw it. “No, but I’ve had it described to me by those that were.”
He was lying. I can read people, and he was lying. But how was that possible? Did ponies have a longer lifespan than I thought? Or was this one special? Regardless, that little slip-up put him off, and he left shortly thereafter.
Eventually, though, I gained his trust. I think I’d been there almost three months (I wondered often what had happened to Robin and Geoff, and where Sam and Chrissie were) when he finally walked in holding a pair of bracelet-looking things.
“You’ve been cooped up in here for too long. These cuffs here are made of the dampening material, and will allow you to walk around my mine while reasonably… muzzled, as it were, so long as you behave.”
This was the perfect opportunity to learn the layout of the mine, to meet some of the slaves and plot an escape. He had to know it to, because he had put particular emphasis on the last word.
“What do you mean by behave?”
“Don’t interfere with normal work, don’t bother anyone, and don’t even try to approach one of the exits.”
That made sense. I could still learn things by moving around a hell of a lot more. I could tell I was weak from my muscles not getting any use other than routine stretches.
I reached my claws out, and he placed the bracelets around them. I immediately felt my body react, and I winced. It was actively painful, like a very dull ache, and I hazarded that I would be hurting a lot more if I actually tried something.
“Could I have a map?”
Spades looked at me a moment, then reached into his saddlebags, bit a roll of paper, and held it out to me. I grabbed it, and looked at it. Without even glancing at the stallion, I said “Thank you.”
He huffed and walked out.
I could move. It was time to do some plotting.