"There we are." Mused Fluttershy as she wrapped another blanket around her dragon egg. "That should be plenty warm and cozy."
Spike examined the large pile of sheets that surrounded the egg, shooting Fluttershy a skeptic look. "You've sure got a lot of blankets just lying around."
Fluttershy patted the outer layer of the wrappings, smiling at Spike. "You never know when a poor little animal will need to escape the cold and scary night."
Spike took a step away from the densely concealed egg, breathing a sigh. "Well, it isn't all that cold out. This much cover is a bit....over the top."
Fluttershy glanced worriedly to Spike and back to her egg a few times before mumbling, "I don't know what's right or wrong for this little egg....Spike, you know more about dragons than I do. So, if I'm doing something wrong, please tell me."
Spike put a hand to his chin, his expression thoughtful as he absently scratched at his scales. "Well.....I don't know a lot about caring for dragon eggs, so I would say just do what you're doing. Dragons can always take a little extra heat."
Fluttershy nodded, adjusting the blankets that lay upon the egg. "Alright. I'll just....keep the little egg safe and warm, I guess....what about after the egg hatches?"
Spike rolled his shoulders, answering, "Give the baby dragon gems. Lot's of them. That's an essential to their diets, both growing and grown. Also, try not to keep anything especially flammable out in the open." Spike chuckled, scratching at his spines in embarrassment. "Just ask Twilight. Infant dragons have no control over their fire."
Fluttershy smiled nervously, blinking rapidly as she stared at the blanket-coated egg. "Oh, fire.....that's nice...." She cleared her throat, looking back to Spike. "Is there, uh, anything else I should know?"
Spike thought for a moment, pacing about, then answered, "Just remember that dragons aren't ponies. I might not know much about parenting, but I do know that dragons who aren't raised by dragons often have a tough time living on their own." Spike turned his gaze to the ceiling as he reminisced on his (ultimately fruitless) quest for self discovery. "Or with other dragons, for that matter. We're pretty solitary, believe it or not."
Fluttershy giggled, slowly shaking her head. "Oh, Spike. You're too friendly to be called solitary. But then again, you're not like other dragons, are you Spike?"
Spike shrugged, glancing to the sheet-concealed egg, then smiled warmly at Fluttershy. "I guess I'm not. It's because I grew up under Celestia's care. But, with this new little dragon....let's just hope you'll turn out to be just as good a caretaker, Fluttershy."
Fluttershy turned her attention back to the tightly bundled egg, her voice quiet as she placed a hoof on the pile of blankets. "Thanks, Spike.....I'm sure Twilight's worried sick, what with you gone and all."
Spike blinked at this, then hurried out of the cottage, shouting, "I'll see you around, Fluttershy! You take care!"
Fluttershy sat for a moment after she heard the door close, then smiled weakly as she began removing the bundles of sheets. She uncovered the onyx egg, whose surface seemed to shine like obsidian. She stared at the now bare egg for a moment, then wrapped her forelegs around it. She rubbed her cheek against the shell, the small sear of heat feeling more comforting than anything Fluttershy could remember. She sniffled, beginning to sob quietly. "I never thought I would be a mother....I don't know whether I should be scared or....overjoyed. I just know that I'll never let you go, so long as you need a mother's love.....my little dragon....." She hugged tighter the egg, her tears quietly turning to vapor as they rolled down the black shell.
"Ow!" Shouted a young earth pony colt as he grimaced at the syringe in his flank. Nurse Mend, with an apologetic smile, injected the contents of the syringe into the nearly teary-eyed foal. She gingerly removed the needle, then quickly applied a bandage to the small wound it had left.
Nurse Mend giggled, patting the colt's shoulder. "Way to be a brave little colt! How about a lollipop?"
The boy ruefully shook his head, breathing a sigh. "I-I'm not allowed to have sugar. And besides, I'm not really hungry...." He glanced to his mother, who nodded approvingly. Nurse Mend glanced to her, then shrugged.
"Well, if you don't want one, you don't have to have one." Mend gestured to the door with a sweeping motion and a bright smile. "In that case, have a nice day!"
The colt started toward the door, but was quickly stopped by his mother. The mother, who bore into her foal with a somewhat disciplinary glare, whispered, "What do we tell the nice nurse, Jitters?"
Jitters blinked at the question, then glanced apologetically to Nurse Mend. "Oh! I-I'm sorry. I f-forgot to thank you. Thank you, Nurse Mend."
Nurse Mend nodded with a brief giggle in response. At this, Jitters' mother smiled once more, allowing her foal to exit. She grinned at Mend, quickly saying, "We really appreciate it! Thank you very much!" With that, she bolted from the room to catch up with Jitters. Nurse Mend stood in the room for a moment, staring blankly at the door.
What a depraved, piteous little thing. Thought Curiosity Shift. So physically, mentally, and self-confidently frail. He spoke with a stutter, can't focus on the most basic things, and what's with his excuse of a mother? She's hardly parenting. It seems like she's more of a bully than a mother.
Um....Shift? Mumbled a quiet voice within the mare's mind.
Aren't you supposed to be in stasis, teardrop? Shift asked her thoughts.
Hardly, Shift. I'm free to parade around your thoughts just as you are with mine. Aqua Grace answered.
Well, stop it! Shift shouted at Aqua as her physical disguise rubbed at her neck, breathing a sigh. Who would have thought that being a simple nurse would be so difficult? And the headache I'm getting from this cover is only being aggravated by you, Aqua Grace. Whatever it is you want, be quick. I'll soon need to hunt down something for this blistering pain...
Shift....I only want the honest truth from you. Are you completely sure that syringe you injected that colt with was the proper vaccination? Aqua Grace seemed slightly hostile in her approach.
Nurse "Shift" exited the room, lazily meandering down the hall. ....define completely.
Shift..... Growled Aqua Grace within the unicorn's thoughts. What was in that syringe?
Nurse "Shift" tiredly nodded to a doctor that grinned and winked at her as he passed, then looked forward again with a somewhat disgusted expression. Well, I can be sure that that syringe was filled with the proper flu vaccination....forty percent sure, anyway.
Shift.....what was in that syringe?! Aqua hissed, causing Shift's physical disguise to groan quietly.
It....may or may not have been an adrenaline injection.... Shift's thoughts weren't particularly guilty, but she feared what Aqua Grace's response would bring about.
Curiosity Shift......CURIOSITY SHIFT!!! Aqua bellowed within the mare's mind, causing her physical distress; her vision blurred, her ears rung, and the "nurse" became noticeably off balanced.
Aqua.....that hurt. I'd normally ignore such an outburst, but this physical brain can't take that sort of stress.....ow.... Nurse "Shift" moved to a wall, placing a hoof against it in an attempt to brace herself.
First the innocent pegasus filly! Then that poor elderly earth pony! Then that direly injured pegasus mare! Now this 'depraved, piteous' earth pony colt, as you so put it! Aqua Grace shouted within the stream of thoughts, causing Nurse "Shift" physical pain as she put a hoof to her forehead. This is becoming intolerable, Shift! So much violence and chaos is wholly unnecessary to the plan! You're only wasting precious time!
Nurse "Shift" took in a deep breath, then continued down the hall. Do you ever shut up? For a mute, you do an awful lot of talking. It's hard to focus on your ranting with such a pathetic brain backing my thoughts. This form is on the brink of an aneurysm, all because you aggravated an already grueling headache with your incessant nagging. Shift paused in her response, her physical mind too distressed to rage at her alter ego. And, to be clear, what I'm doing is actually pertinent to our assignment. You see-
"Excuse me." Said an earth pony garbed in scrubs as he stepped in front of Nurse "Shift." Shift started at his sudden appearance, jolted from her conversation with Aqua Grace, but quickly put on a grin as she mustered her focus, struggling to keep her balance.
"Wh-what can I do for you?" Mumbled Curiosity Shift, trying hard not to sound pained as she spoke.
The somewhat overbearing earth pony smiled at her response, seeming pleased with himself. "Oh, I was just wondering if you'd care to take a short coffee break with me." He stood a head taller than Curiosity Shift, making his expectant gaze seem somewhat intimidating. Or rather, it would have been intimidating to any other mare in such a situation.
Even in her daze, Shift was already hatching malicious schemes. With a giggle, Nurse "Shift" nodded, saying, "I'd be happy to join you..." She glanced to his name tag, smiling more brightly as she continued with, "...Bodacious Boldness...."
Bodacious Boldness inhaled with satisfaction, as if his spoken name emitted a pleasant aroma. "Excellent! Let's be on our way!" He turned, proudly prancing toward the cafeteria. Nurse "Shift" trailed behind, stumbling about as she scowled at her self-obsessed date.
Such an insolent intern! He's so clearly a self-absorbed muscle head that only seeks to please himself! I mean, just look at the symbol that adorns his flank! What, is it supposed to be a lion? What does such a thing even represent?! And that expectant gleam in his eyes! I can already tell what he hopes to gain from this petty social exchange! Nurse "Shift" bit her lip, looking ready to collapse. Alright....how can this nurse ever hope to work through a single day in this hospital with such a weak brain? It's paining me to simply hate this stallion in silence....
Hmm....this appears to be a symptom of withdrawal. Aqua Grace suggested, her presence further paining the "nurse's" mind.
From what, exactly? Shift asked, stumbling and falling into the wall before she scrambled to catch up with Boldness, who hadn't noticed how difficult it was for her to follow behind.
I can't say for sure, but it's good to see that this headache is acting as a handicap for you. You can't wreak nearly as much havoc when you can barely walk to and fro. Aqua Grace joked, drawing an annoyed groan from the "nurse."
...shut it, teardrop. You're on this assignment as well, you know. Shift meandered behind Bodacious Boldness, looking particularly dazed and confused.
Well, you certainly can't do a lot of chastising when it pains you just to hold this conversation. Aqua observed, drawing a quiet snort from Curiosity Shift, who could now only focus on following this stallion who she already hated with a passion.
Oh, I hope Twilight isn't mad with me.... Thought Spike as he rushed to the library. I'm sure she'll understand if I just calmly explain everything that happened. Yeah, that's what I'll do. I'll just tell her that I helped Fluttershy bring that egg back to her cottage....but what do I tell her about that dragoness? Spike's pondering came to a halt when the library came into view. However, the unicorn that he saw enter clearly wasn't Twilight. Spike, already recognizing who this unicorn was, approached the library with caution. Despite the library being open to the public, Spike already expected only bad things to come from this visitor. As quietly as possible, Spike opened the door and peered inside. Oblivious of the young dragon's presence, Opulent Majesty stood within, browsing the various shelves with a stern expression. Spike glared at the unicorn, stepping back to shut the door with the intent of finding Twilight and informing her of Opulent's intrusion. However, before he was able to completely shut the door, the young dragon suddenly felt a slight tickle in his nose. He paused for a moment, only to allow the tickle to explode into a voluminous sneeze. As if the noise alone wasn't enough to attract Opulent's attention, the flurry of green flame that came along with the sneeze was more than enough to startle the unicorn. Opulent spun to face the door, which Spike hadn't completely disappeared through, and smiled at the young dragon.
"Well, aren't you a rare sight?" Opulent mused, taking a step toward Spike, who didn't dare run away now. "I didn't expect to see any baby dragons in Ponyville...are you, perhaps, a friend of Miss Magic?"
With a good amount of hesitance, Spike stepped into the library, shutting the door with an absent flick of the tail. Looking puzzled, he asked, "How'd you know?"
Opulent grinned at the young dragon, answering, "Oh, from what I've heard of Twilight Sparkle, I could only assume that she keeps the most extraordinary of company. After all, Twilight herself must be something extraordinary if she's a prized student of Equestria's Princess Celestia."
Spike, although feeling a bit smug from being (indirectly) called extraordinary, frowned at Opulent. "Well, somepony has been doing their research...what else do you know about Twilight?"
Opulent adjusted his monocle, his smile fading. "You ask that as if I'm prying...I assure you, all I know about Miss Magic is what I've heard from gossip, media, and the like." The two stared at one another in silence for a moment, scowling slightly. Dismissively turning to face a nearby shelf, Opulent continued, "Anyway, I'd also heard that Twilight Sparkle managed Ponyville's library. I was curious to see what sort of collections she kept..." He scanned the shelf he had turned to, a bemused grin suddenly donning on his lips. "I'm certain that it must be dreadful to only have access to such a pitifully small number of books after growing up among the Canterlot archives..."
Spike stepped in front of Opulent, glaring at the stallion. "'The like,' huh? Are you sure you haven't been studying Twilight's history, or even spying on her?"
Opulent chuckled, his horn suddenly aglow. From a high shelve hovered down a book with the title "World Geography." Spike held his glare, but seemed somewhat perplexed by his choice. Opulent proceeded to flip through pages with his magic, saying with an amused tone, "How nice. You're rather protective of Miss Magic, aren't you? Tell me, what's your name, young dragon?"
Spike crossed his arms, looking appalled by the question. "What's it to you, pal?"
Opulent halted his page flipping, now intently studying a global map. "Fine, don't answer me. I'll find out sooner or later, anyway."
Spike rolled his eyes, pointing a thumb at himself. "Spike. The name's Spike."
Opulent looked up from the map, grinning snidely. "A pleasure to meet you, Spike. Even if you've likely heard my name already, I'll introduce myself all the same." He held aside the book, offering a hoof to the young dragon. "Call me Opulent. Opulent Majesty." Spike blinked at the offer, glancing to Opulent's mischievous grin and back. After a quiet gulp, Spike shook the unicorn's hoof, but refused to drop his scrutinizing glare.
"So...Opulent, is it?" Spike began, quickly withdrawing his hand. "What are you here for, exactly?"
Resuming his scanning of the world map, Opulent absently answered, "Oh, like I said earlier. Just standard diplomatic procedures and benefits is all."
Spike shook his head, saying in a somewhat annoyed tone, "I meant what are you, Opulent Majesty, doing here, in this library?"
Opulent brushed back his mane with an embarrassed chuckle, answering, "Oh! You see, I was interested in a small evaluation of Ponyville's stock of literature. I'm also interested in personally introducing myself to all the Elements of Harmony."
Spike scratched at his chin, eyeing the unicorn with suspicion. "Really? Who have you met so far?"
Opulent paused before answering, flipping to the next page in the atlas. "If I recall, I've acquainted myself with the Elements of Honesty, Generosity, and...Laughter." He cackled quietly at the mention of Pinkie Pie's Element, then proceeded studying the page he had turned to.
Spike furrowed his glare, crossing his arms once more. "They have names, you know."
Opulent turned the page once more, nodding curtly. "I'm well aware of that. I've just never felt right about disregarding a title, though. So, I think I'll call them all by their Element names."
Spike raised an eyebrow, pointing at the atlas that Opulent was so intently reading. "You seem especially interested in that book there. What are you reading out of it?"
Opulent grinned wryly as he quickly scanned over a small paragraph. He slammed shut the book and returned it to where he had taken it from, answering with, "Oh, just bits and pieces. Nothing important, really." At this, Spike glanced up to the newly re-shelved book, then returned his glare to Opulent as he began to inch toward the nearest ladder. Opulent, however, didn't acknowledge the young dragon's suspicion, and instead wandered over to another bookshelf. Spike, seeing that Opulent was no longer paying any attention to him, rushed over to the ladder and quickly wheeled it to the shelf the atlas had been placed on. He raised a foot to begin climbing, but halted when he heard the library door open.
"Oh, hi Spike!" Greeted Twilight Sparkle as she stepped inside, magically shutting the door behind her. "Where have you been? After we found Pinkie, I...I..." She froze as she spotted Opulent, who had now turned to face her. "Um...hi there, Opulent Majesty. What brings you here?"
"Oh, I was on the hunt for a good read. However, I'd be more interested in a formal introduction." He held out his hoof to Twilight, which caused the nervous mare to bite her lip. "It's always a pleasure to meet a fellow magic enthusiast. And from what I've heard of you, Miss Magic, I can assume that you're just as scholarly as I am."
With a gulp and a weak giggle, Twilight shook the stallion's hoof. "Please, call me Twilight Sparkle...you say you're a bit of a scholar?"
Withdrawing his hoof, Opulent nodded, saying, "Indeed. I dedicate myself to the invention of new spells, both practical and radical. Tell me, Miss Sparkle, what sort of studies are you currently engaged in?"
Twilight smiled awkwardly, her cheeks rosy as she answered, "Oh...just a little project assigned to me by Princess Celestia."
Opulent raised an eyebrow, chuckling lightly. "You've been given an assignment from such prestigious royalty? I must say, Miss Sparkle, I'm already impressed."
Twilight giggled, waving a dismissive hoof. Spike, already sickened by their exchange, hurried over to them, pointing an accusing claw at Opulent. "Flattery isn't going to get you far, pal. Twilight's smarter than-"
"Oh!" Interrupted Twilight, her horn glowing suddenly. Spike, whose tail had been seized by Twilight's aura, shot off the ground with a yelp. He dangled in front of Opulent, who could only grin wryly at the distressed young dragon. "This is Spike! Have you met Spike? He's my scribe! I think you'll really like Spike!" She moved the young dragon closer to Opulent, who was clearly on the verge of laughter. "Say hi, Spike!"
Spike only groaned in annoyance, now thrashing about in an attempt to free himself from Twilight's magic grasp. Opulent shook his head with a bemused laugh, then prepared his own magic. He hovered his horn, which glowed emerald green, near Spike's tail for a moment, then gently tapped the glowing scales. With a small flash of violet light, the magic hold on Spike's tail vanished, causing the young dragon to drop to the floor with another yelp. Twilight blinked rapidly at her assistant, who had now scrambled to his feet and was glaring up at Opulent, then turned a disbelieving gaze to the stallion.
"How did you....do that?" She asked, putting a hoof to her chin and eyeing Opulent with intrigue.
"That? That was nothing more than a basic Negation spell. You can't tell me that Equestria's most academically versed unicorn hasn't seen such a spell before." Opulent glanced down to the glowering Spike, grinning snidely as he patted his spines with a hoof, which only served to draw a low growl from the young dragon.
"Actually...I haven't. I haven't once seen a Negation spell in action..." She scratched at the back of her neck, laughing with embarrassment. "I guess I'm not as 'academically versed' as you'd think...." She cleared her throat, her lips pursed and her cheeks red as she shyly grinned at Opulent.
"Really? Well, that just won't do." He gestured to the rows of books that surrounded them, saying, "Nopony with a passion for knowledge shall remain ignorant if I have any say. Perhaps you'd care for me to teach you a thing or two that I know?"
Spike hurriedly stepped defensively in front of Twilight, hissing, "She doesn't need to learn anything from you! Now just-"
With a quick burst of magic, a zipper materialized at the corner of Spike's mouth, quickly closing and silencing the young dragon. Stepping past Spike, Twilight cheerily answered, "That sounds great!"
Despite Spike's muffled shout of disapproval, Opulent smiled brightly at Twilight's answer. "Excellent! I've brought along a few spells detailed in text for just this purpose, but...I would ask a small favor of you in return."
Spike reached for the zipper that held shut his mouth, but a disrupting hoof from Twilight stopped him from taking hold on it. With a quick scowl directed at Spike, Twilight turned a grin to Opulent as she responded with, "Sure. What sort of favor?"
Opulent glanced to the frustrated Spike, who was still being blocked by Twilight as he struggled to unzip his mouth, then answered, "I'd very much appreciate it if you would introduce me to the two Elements that I have yet to meet. The Elements of Kindness and Loyalty, that is."
Twilight nodded, dropping her hoof and instead utilizing magic to restrain the now furious young dragon, saying, "Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash? I can understand how you'd have a hard time meeting those two. Fluttershy is as shy as it gets, and Rainbow Dash..." Twilight's friendly grin became visibly dampened as she sighed, continuing with, "Well, let's just say that Rainbow Dash is...preoccupied with something really important. I'll still introduce you to them, though."
Opulent frowned at Twilight's solemn explanation of Rainbow Dash's situation, asking in a concerned tone, "Is the Element of Loyalty in some form of predicament or crisis?"
Twilight returned the frown, sounding sorrowful as she answered, "Well...Rainbow Dash is sort of...upset...with a pegasus filly. This filly sort of...tried to fight dragons...and then sort of...met the consequences of her actions."
Opulent gasped, putting a hoof to his chest. "You don't mean...?"
Twilight quickly shook her head in response, saying, "I meant that she got seriously injured while trying to fight them."
Opulent breathed a relieved sigh, dropping his hoof. "Oh, I see. Dragons can be dangerous things." He grinned at Spike, who had given up on trying to unzip his mouth and was instead intently glaring at Opulent.
Twilight's frown deepened as she looked to the floor, her voice now quiet as she said, "On top of serious injury, Scootaloo is also suffering from a rare illness..."
Opulent turned his attention back to Twilight, his expression nearly as sorrowful as her's. "Illness? What sort of illness?"
Twilight paused for a moment, then slowly answered, "Have you ever heard of Magic Poisoning?"
Opulent's eyes widened slightly as he mumbled, "Oh dear...it's only ever caused by massive amounts of PK energy that haven't been carefully directed..." He grinned as sympathetically as he was able as Twilight turned her gaze upward. "There's no need to worry, though. Magic Poisoning is easily managed, as I'm sure you're already aware, unless...the ailment is agitated."
Twilight sighed a grievous sigh, saying, "I'm aware of that as well. If the unicorn who caused the Poisoning uses any magic near the afflicted, then the victim can be spurred into terrible convulsions and...other things..."
Opulent raised an eyebrow, his tone perplexed as he asked, "You've only heard of cases becoming more severe if the source of affliction uses magic? From what I'd heard, Magic Poisoning can be agitated by any stray pulse or wave of PK energy."
Twilight gasped, looking panicked. "Oh no! I didn't know that...poor Scootaloo..." She put a hoof to her chin, then glanced to Spike. With an apologetic smile, she magically unzipped the young dragon's mouth, the conjured metal disappearing with a small poof.
Opulent put a hoof to Twilight's shoulder, which startled the mare as she looked back to Opulent. In a reassuring tone, Opulent said, "Don't fret. There are ways to properly treat Magic Poisoning through magical means without harming the afflicted. I'll be happy to show them to you, if you'd like."
Twilight blushed as she glanced to Opulent's hoof. With a nervous nod, she mumbled, "Anything to help Scootaloo..."
Opulent withdrew his hoof, pausing for a moment before turning away from Twilight and back to the bookshelves. Twilight, cheeks still red, glanced to Spike with an embarrassed smile. The look he gave her, however, was one of cold disapproval. She blinked at the young dragon, then returned her gaze to Opulent, her interest certainly piqued. All the while, the three of them were totally oblivious to a certain earth pony who was dead set on revealing Opulent's true nature. Pinkie Pie, ever the vigilant sleuth, watched everything through the window.
"Well, aren't you the tricky one?" She grumbled, stepping from out of the shrubbery and up to the library door. "If there's one pony who you can't fool for long, it's Twilight Sparkle." She cleared her throat, then reached into her mane. After a moment of rifling through the tangle of pink locks, she pulled out a flashy invitation card that read, "Welcome, Embassy of New Unicornia, to Ponyville!" Placing the card in her mouth, she raised a hoof to knock, then inhaled sharply before rapping on the door with speed that only Pinkie Pie would ever knock with. I don't know what you're planning, you maniac, but I'll find out soon enough.
High above the road to the Everfree, Rainbow Dash lazily drifted through the skies as she glared at the forest. Even if the uproar of the two dragons had come to an end, she had only heard one of them leave the Everfree by way of wing. In her hurry to rescue Scootaloo, she hadn't been able to assess where the second dragon had gone. Seeing that the conflict hadn't lasted long, she could only assume it had started as a territorial dispute. She needed to confirm her suspicions, however, before charging headlong into the Everfree. And the only pony that could possibly be a witness was the pony that was least likely to ever get near a pair of warring dragons. Nonetheless, Rainbow Dash landed at the doorstep of Fluttershy's cottage. Considering disregarding Fluttershy's account and simply skipping ahead to the Everfree for a moment, Dash shook her multi-hued mane, then knocked on the door to Fluttershy's humble abode. She waited for a few seconds, then raised a hoof to step away and take off for the Everfree, but the meek figure that opened the door kept her there.
"Oh, hi Rainbow Dash." Fluttershy greeted, tiredly rubbing at her cheek. "What can I do for you?"
Rainbow Dash seemed a bit puzzled by Fluttershy's slightly reddened eyes and tear-stained cheeks, but answered all the same with, "I was just headed to the Everfree to check out a couple things."
"Oh...are you....going to look for one of the d-dragons?" Fluttershy questioned, shooting a wary glance in the direction of the forest.
Rainbow Dash nodded, pointing to the Everfree with a hoof. "I asked around a bit, and everypony is sure that one of the two dragons has already flown off, and headed far away from Ponyville. But where's the other one? If that dragon is still in the Everfree, then it's still a threat to Ponyville!" Rainbow Dash looked back to Fluttershy, who now wore a sorrowful expression. Rainbow Dash, confused by Fluttershy's apparent sorrow, asked, "Mind telling me where the other one went...?"
Fluttershy sniffled, rubbing at her eyes for a moment before answering, "Come inside. It's a long story..." She stepped aside to allow Rainbow Dash entrance. Even more confused by this point, Rainbow Dash stepped inside, Fluttershy shutting the door behind her. The two walked into the cottage's cozy living room, with a large pile of conspicuous blankets sitting solemnly in the center of an otherwise spotless floor.
Rainbow Dash gestured to the plethora of sheets, asking Fluttershy, "What's with all the blankets? What, are you hiding something in there?"
Fluttershy stared blankly at Rainbow Dash for a moment, then nodded to the nearby couch. "Please, have a seat. I'll explain everything."
With a brief suspicious glance to the pile of blankets, Rainbow Dash trotted over to the couch and plopped down, appearing ready to listen. "I don't know why you couldn't just point me in the right direction, but whatever."
Fluttershy sat before the mound of sheets, eyeing it with an enigmatic expression, then sighed before beginning in a quiet, near-whisper voice, "After returning home from the sauna, I stood at my doorstep, about to enter when I heard a strange noise....that was one of the first ferocious roars that came from the dragons. After hearing several louder repeats of the noise, I rushed over to the Everfree. I could tell by the screeching, earth-shaking, and scary fire that a dragon was rampaging, but I could tell by a second roar, one that sounded distinctly different from the first I'd heard, that there were two dragons....I really didn't want to intervene, and I knew that there wasn't much I could do, but I flew into the Everfree all the same....." Fluttershy glanced to Rainbow Dash, who was (unsurprisingly) only partially tuned in. Fluttershy looked back to the blankets, feeling a bit downtrodden that her story was already beginning to fall on deaf ears. "The dragons weren't very deep in the forest, so I got to them quickly enough, but when I found them....there was nothing I could do. They were vicious, fighting a bloody battle that seemed to have no end." She shuddered, resting her head on the sheets. "It was so scary....when I saw Scootaloo explode from the trees and run at them, I should have stopped her....but I didn't...I just hope she's okay now."
Rainbow Dash blinked at this, now listening more intently. She frowned, but nodded nonetheless. "She's fine now. Just a little battered, is all..." She trailed off for a moment, then gestured to Fluttershy, saying, "Please, go ahead with your story."
Fluttershy drew away from the pile of blankets once more, looking it over before continuing. "After she got swatted away, I don't know where she went....I feel really guilty for not going after her, even if I was scared out of my mind. After Scootaloo disappeared from sight, I watched the dragons for a little while longer...I hated every second of their fighting, but I was just too afraid to stop them...fortunately, there was somepony else who came along to save the day."
Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow at this, putting a hoof to her chin. "Oh? Who was this other pony?"
Fluttershy glanced to Rainbow Dash, then grinned sheepishly as she returned her gaze to the blankets. "Well, I couldn't place her name, nor did she look very familiar, but I do remember that she was a unicorn with some very....unique magic."
Rainbow Dash considered this for a moment, then said, "Well, she must have been in the Everfree already, or something. Because I didn't see anypony on my way to or out of the forest."
Fluttershy shrugged, continuing, "It's odd that you didn't see her, because she...trotted through the skies...as if she was a pegasus. And her mane and tail...they were all wavy and glowing...sort of like Princess Celestia's mane and tail..."
Rainbow Dash directed a dubious scowl at Fluttershy, cocking her head as she said, "As if she was a pegasus? Are you sure you weren't seeing things, Fluttershy?"
Fluttershy shifted her jaw, pausing for a long moment before answering, "You know, I can't say for sure. Maybe I was so terrified that I was hallucinating...but, even if I was, there was something that turned the tide of the dragons' battle. This unicorn...she pointed her horn to the bigger of the two dragons and did...something." Fluttershy scratched at her head, trying hard to remember exactly what had occurred. "It had to with her mane and tail...they got really bright and started to disappear, and then shot some sort of magic at that dragon. It didn't do a lot of damage, but he, or at least I think that dragon was a he, was at least distracted by it. When he turned back to the other dragon, she drove the tip of her tail..." Fluttershy gulped, shaking her head, "...right through his eye...after that, I guess he'd lost, so he flew off..."
Rainbow Dash grimaced at this, but quickly shrugged it off. "So that means the other dragon lived through it, right?"
Fluttershy sniffled once more, blinking away tears as she continued, "After the battle was over, the dragoness that remained was terribly injured...she was bleeding badly, and was too fatigued to stay standing for long...Spike showed up shortly after the battle ended, and reasoned with her. She didn't trust me at first, but Spike introduced me...this dragoness seemed to recognize me when Spike told her that I was the Element of Kindness..." Fluttershy sniffled, more weakly than before, then placed a hoof on the blankets. "When she trusted me, she asked me to look at something...something very special of her's..." Rainbow Dash now turned her attention to the pile of sheets, looking increasingly puzzled. "After I gave it the once over, she collapsed...with her dying breath, she asked me to watch over her most precious possession..."
Rainbow Dash's eyes widened as she rushed to Fluttershy's side, hovering just above the mound of blankets. "'Dying breath?' You mean...she's..."
"Gone...and she trusted me, somepony she had never met before, with this..." Fluttershy whispered, running her hoof across the layer of blankets.
Rainbow Dash looked the mound up and down, landing beside Fluttershy. "Are you just hiding a big diamond in there, or what?"
Fluttershy breathed a sigh, then pulled away the blanket layer, revealing the glistening onyx egg that hid beneath. Rainbow Dash stared in disbelief at the dragon egg for a long moment, then she took to the air again, hovering near the ceiling as she looked to Fluttershy.
"Fluttershy...y-you have a dragon egg? Haven't you tried to tell anypony about this?" Rainbow Dash asked, frantically glancing between the egg and the now disconcerted Fluttershy.
Fluttershy, looking particularly guilt-stricken, mumbled, "Well, Spike knows, and you know...b-but what if Celestia finds out? If the news spreads, then the P-Princess might take away the egg..."
Rainbow Dash descended until she was just above the onyx egg. She looked over the egg once more, then looked back to Fluttershy. "What's so bad about that? Then Celestia will care for it, and you won't have to."
Fluttershy threw her forelegs around the egg, protectively pulling it away from Rainbow Dash. With a quaver to her voice, Fluttershy mumbled, "But, Rainbow Dash.....th-that dying d-d-dragoness.....that dying mother.....she asked m-me to care for her egg.....and.....I d-don't want anything to take th-this unhatched dragon away from me....."
Rainbow Dash landed once more, frowning at the now sobbing Fluttershy. "Fluttershy, you have to think this through. Celestia already knows how to raise dragons. Besides, they can be really dangerous, even at a young age. Why would you insist on keeping this egg for yourself?"
Fluttershy hugged tighter the egg, her words difficult to comprehend through her sobs as she said, "Y-you don't understand....wh-what if I n-never see this little egg again? Wh-what if they take it away forever, a-and I n-never get to see my...um...this b-baby dragon grow up?"
Rainbow Dash looked puzzled by her plea, but she grinned sympathetically after a moment, offering, "Okay...so you want to stay close to this egg?" Fluttershy sniffled again, nodding slowly in response. "Well, there's no harm in raising it now, but you can't hide a dragon forever..."
Fluttershy rubbed her cheek against the onyx shell, eyes shimmering as she gazed at nothing in particular. "I guess I c-can't.....but, for now, can I know that this secret is safe?"
Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes, answering, "Alright. Your secret is safe with me."
Fluttershy sniffled once more, meekly adding, "....P-Pinkie Pie Promise?"
Rainbow Dash chuckled, acting out the binding pact as she said, "Cross my heart and hope to fly. Stick a cupcake in my eye." She nodded to Fluttershy, saying, "I won't tell a soul, Fluttershy."
Fluttershy grinned weakly at the promise, then gently set the egg atop the scattered heap of blankets, proceeding to conceal the egg once more. "Th-thanks, Rainbow Dash..."
Rainbow Dash put a hoof to her chin, her smile suddenly fading as her expression became thoughtful. "But, don't you think we should tell somepony about that dragoness? We should really give her a proper burial."
Fluttershy inhaled deeply, then released a shaky sigh. "I g-guess we should...but who? Who are we supposed to tell something like that to?"
Rainbow Dash rubbed at her jaw, glancing to the now covered egg, then answered, "I guess we could tell Twilight Sparkle...maybe she'll know what to do."
Fluttershy looked to the egg as well, then gently slid it to sit beside the couch. "Okay...let's be quick, though. I don't want to leave this egg all alone for long."
Rainbow Dash nodded, already moving for the door. "Don't worry. Your egg will be safe here. Nopony knows about it, so it'll be just fine." Fluttershy glanced warily to her egg once more before following behind Rainbow Dash, but quickly cast off her fear and grinned as she took off, shutting the door behind her. The two pegasi took to the skies, leaving behind the quiet cottage and the little dragon egg.
Silver Gleam sighed as he shut the door to his hotel room, walking inside with a smile on his face. "Well, we're certainly off to a good start." He said to himself as he looked over the luggage piled on his bed. "Hmm...I wonder where Opulent Majesty has gone. He always has his things unpacked before the rest of us." He glanced to Opulent's excessively secure luggage, then shrugged, turning his attention to his own. He quickly scanned over his things, then began moving them to the floor one by one, not really bothering to check if anything was out of place or missing. When he came upon the lock box, however, he paused, eyeing it with suspicion. Last he recalled, the only available key for the box was one that he himself created from transmuted material. When he found the mechanism to be unlocked, with not a key to be found, he could only guess that the lock was picked. He opened it, breathing a relieved sigh to find that the item stored inside had been left alone. He shut the box, then magically snatched up a scarf from one of his bags. His horn shone brighter for a moment as he touched it to the scarf, which was consumed by the magic aura as it warped and transformed into a very peculiar key. Satisfied, Silver turned his attention to the lock box and did the same, holding the tip of his horn to the mechanism as it glowed internally. He tested the change to the lock by inserting his custom made key, and laughed triumphantly when it fit inside perfectly. He set the box on the floor, noting to himself, "I'll have to have Opulent put a few safeguards on this, but it should be fine for now." He looked back to the still massive pile of luggage that remained on his bed, but paused when he heard a knock at the door. He trotted over and opened it to find a pegasus with a blonde mane and a gray coat standing before him. He was shocked to find that her eyes didn't even remotely face the same direction, but he didn't show it.
Instead, he grinned at the pegasus as he asked, "What can I do for you?'
The mare rifled through her mail bag, which Silver was just now noticing, and pulled out a card that read in bright letters, "Welcome, Embassy of New Unicornia, to Ponyville!" The pegasus presented the card to him with a smile, shouting in a voice that rather suited her appearance, "Special delivery for the ambassadors!"
Silver accepted the card with a gracious, "Thank you very much, Miss...?"
Derpy Hooves saluted the unicorn, shouting, "Derpy Hooves, professional mailmare!"
Silver nodded, saying, "Thank you very much, Derpy Hooves. I'll be sure to show this card to Opulent Majesty once he returns."
Derpy nodded, turning to walk to the neighboring room as she said, "Okay, mister! You have a nice day!"
"You have a nice day as well, Derpy Hooves." Silver said, shutting the door and stepping inside the room once more. After quickly reading the title of the card, he opened it, finding a small explosion of confetti to greet him. He chuckled at this, shaking his head, then proceeded to read the card.
Silver Gleam grinned as he read the invitation, then set it on the nearby end table. He headed for the door once more, then opened it to find Patsy Craft, who he had completely expected.
Patsy frowned, glancing past Silver as she mumbled, "I'm guessing you got the same invitation that I got."
Silver nodded, grinning brightly. "I think a little welcoming party sounds delightful! Don't you?"
Patsy shook her head, her blue mane stiffly wobbling about. "No, Silver, I don't. You know that social gatherings aren't my thing."
Silver chuckled, grinning sympathetically at the downtrodden mare. "Nonsense! You always enjoyed little gatherings back home, didn't you?"
Patsy scowled at him, sounding annoyed as she answered, "That's something completely different. My parents dragged me along, introduced me to a few nobles, and then sent me home. In this case....we're the guests of honor. You know that I crack under pressure."
Silver chuckled, saying, "Then don't feel pressured. This party is in our honor, so feel honored! You just need to relax and keep your stress in check."
Patsy snorted at Silver's instructions as she turned to walk down the hallway, angrily grumbling, "Easier said than done. I'm going to go find out where this 'Sugarcube Corner' is. Maybe I'll find a good place to hide."
Silver sighed, stepping inside once more. "Oh, Patsy. You really need to learn to be more outgoing...." He looked to his luggage once more, then pulled a comb from a small bag. "Well, I'd better spruce up a bit before I go. Can't look like a mess for the good townsponies."
"But Rarity!" Whined a certain upset unicorn filly. "Scootaloo needs us! We can't just leave her here!"
With a stern expression, Rarity shook her head. In a firm yet gentle tone, she said, "Scootaloo needs her rest, and as much as you'd care to deny it, she won't heal any faster when you stand around and gawk."
Sweetie Belle, now hopping in place as if throwing a tantrum, shouted, "You don't leave a Crusader behind! Can't I stay just a bit longer?"
Rarity frowned at her younger sister, then glanced to Scootaloo, who, frankly, looked thoroughly amused by the scene that Sweetie was making on her behalf.
With a frustrated sputter, Rarity stood aside, allowing Sweetie Belle to return to her friend's bedside. "Just a few more minutes. Visiting hours are almost up, and don't you have a school project to be working on?"
Sweetie Belle laughed warily, rushing to Scootaloo's bedside. "Yeah...that little science...thing. Don't worry, I'll get it done."
Applejack, who had gotten a little entertainment out of Sweetie's fit as well, turned to Applebloom, looking puzzled. "Science project? Ya never said a thing 'bout no science project."
Applebloom grinned up her older sister, cheerfully saying, "That's cause ah've been workin' on it mahself. In fact, ah'm almost done with 't!"
Applejack smiled proudly, slapping her younger sister on the shoulder. "Nice work, Applebloom! That's some right good get-to-it-iveness right there."
Rarity glanced to Applebloom, then to Sweetie Belle. "What is the deadline on this project, Sweetie Belle?"
Sweetie Belle, rubbing at the back of her neck and nervously chuckling, answered, "Uh....three days from now..."
Rarity put a hoof to her forehead, asking in a somewhat despairing tone, "How much of it have you completed?"
Sweetie Belle rolled her eyes, her voice meek as she answered, "Um....none of it. Not a thing."
Rarity pointed to the door, scowling at Sweetie. "We're going home. Right now."
Sweetie Belle frowned deeply, her eyes shimmering as she looked pleadingly back at her sister. "But Rarity! I-"
"Ah bup bup!" Rarity interrupted, stomping the hoof she'd been pointing with. "Don't you 'but Rarity' me! You have a lot of work to do, young lady! You can come back to see your friend once it's done!"
Sweetie Belle groaned in annoyance, then shot Applebloom a despairing look. Applebloom only shrugged, which caused Sweetie to sigh and trot out of the room. Scootaloo, Applebloom, and Applejack watched Rarity follow behind, shutting the door rather angrily with her magic. Scootaloo laughed lightly, shaking her head as she looked to the ceiling.
"In a way, I'm kinda glad that I'm stuck here. I don't have anything for my project done either." Scootaloo said, smiling a content smile.
Applebloom nodded to her, saying in a joking tone, "Looks like somepony lucked out, huh?"
Scootaloo looked to her with a wry smile, saying, "I wouldn't call myself lucky. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now I don't have to go to school."
Applejack adjusted her hat, gesturing to Scootaloo. "Well, ah'd consider mahself lucky to walk away from a dragon fight. Them dragons is somethin' awful."
Scootaloo nodded, scratching at her bandages. "Yeah. I don't want to tangle with another dragon for as long as I live...even around Spike, I think I'm going to be a little more careful." This drew a chuckle from the two earth ponies that stood at her bedside. Scootaloo sighed, looking to the ceiling once more. "Today's been one crazy day, that's for sure." She stared with a grin on her lips for a moment, but her grin faded suddenly. She groaned, putting a hoof to her stomach. "Oh, geez...."
Applebloom and Applejack both looked puzzled by this, the earth pony filly asking with concern, "What's the matter, Scoots?"
Scootaloo groaned once more, sounding pained, then answered, "It must be the pills...something isn't right with them..."
Applejack put a hoof to her chin, suggesting, "Maybe ya needed to take some food with 'em. Have ya eaten somethin'?"
Scootaloo shook her head, squeezing her eye shut as she tried to curl up. "No...I haven't....eaten anything."
Applebloom hopped in place, shouting, "Well, we'll rustle ya up some grub! Be back 'fore ya know 't!" She bolted from the room, practically leaving a dust silhouette where she'd been standing.
Applejack chuckled at her eagerness, trotting to the door. "Sit tight, Scootaloo. We'll get ya somethin' t' snack on." After Applejack stepped from the room, Scootaloo writhed and squirmed, breathing hard.
"Oooow....what did I take? Why is it hurting me like this..." Scootaloo mumbled aloud, her stomach searing.
Poison. Answered a masculine voice within Scootaloo's mind. It had been so distinct that she mistook it for a voice she'd heard, not thought.
"What? Wh-who's there?" Scootaloo asked, glancing about the room.
The assorted medicines you've consumed will only harm you in the amounts that they've been ingested. Essentially, you've been poisoned. The voice said, utterly ignoring Scootaloo's question. Observe.
Suddenly, Scootaloo's already strained vision took on a violet hue, just as it had earlier, causing her to panic. "Oh no! Somepony! Help! I-it's happening again!"
Don't fret. I'm simply allowing you to see the truth through a new perspective. If you would, take a look at your stomach. The voice was perfectly level and not especially commanding, but Scootaloo decided to calm herself and do as instructed. She glanced to her stomach, and gasped when she saw an eerie red glow coming from her abdominal area.
"What the?! Why is my stomach glowing?!" She asked the voice, not realizing how loudly she had shouted her question.
Don't be alarmed. This gift of sight only reveals things for what they truly are. And within your stomach lies poison, which has given it an aura of danger. Your stomach isn't really glowing. Your heightened senses are merely alerting you of the hazard within. The pain you feel, along with this indication, are merely signals that this poison doesn't belong. The voice's explanation was hard to believe, but Scootaloo saw no reason to object.
"Okay, so...what do I do?" Scootaloo asked, eyeing her abdomen with confusion.
When time is of the essence, and your options are limited, you must consider every possible way to confront and combat danger. In this case...might I suggest purging? The voice sounded perfectly serious, much to Scootaloo's disbelief.
"Purge? You can't possibly mean..." Scootaloo mumbled, now more concerned with the voice's suggestion than her pain.
It's simple. In order to clear your insides of this poison, you must manually trigger your own gag reflex. After that, your digestive system will do the rest. The voice sounded perfectly calm and collected, despite Scootaloo's new found panic.
"No way! I am not going to make myself throw up! That's just so....gross!" Scootaloo shouted, the pain she felt undiminished but utterly ignored nonetheless.
Be rational, young one. If you refuse to purge, these poisons will be lethal. Are you honestly going to kill yourself because you refuse to take drastic action? The voice's words carried a great deal of weight as Scootaloo mulled them over. After a second, she took in a deep breath, then looked to her good hoof. She didn't dare do what had to be done at first, but after a moment, she opened her mouth and reached inside. She hesitated for a long moment, then forced herself to trigger her gag reflex.
"Alrighty! Ah've found ya some puddin', a bagel, and even an apple! So, wh-" Applebloom halted what she was saying as her pegasus friend pulled her hoof out of her mouth and proceeded to vomit, the bile and pills she'd taken scattering across the floor. Scootaloo groaned as she looked to Applebloom, rather from embarrassment than pain. Applebloom stared blankly at her friend for a moment, then looked to the previous contents of Scootaloo's stomach.
"Scootaloo....um....uh...." Applebloom muttered, looking equally disgusted and confused.
Great. Thought Scootaloo, smiling warily at her friend. That worked real well! Right as she walks in, I hurl! Thanks a billion, pal!
Don't be ungrateful. It worked, didn't it? You're going to live to see another day. Sure, you now have this predicament to deal with, but you aren't going to die, either. The voice said in a rather dismissive fashion as Scootaloo's vision returned to normal.
"Well...this is probably really confusing, isn't it?" Scootaloo mumbled, glancing between Applebloom and the filth on the floor.
Applebloom looked back up at Scootaloo, putting a hoof to her chin. "Really confusin'....and really gross....Scootaloo, why....why would ya make yourself......ya know...."
Scootaloo opened her mouth to speak, but hesitated, her voice meek as she said, "Well...it's hard to explain......would you believe me if I told you that I had taken the wrong medicine, and had to get it out of me before it did anything bad?"
Applebloom glanced from Scootaloo to the mess on the floor, then mumbled, "Ah...ah'm gonna go tell somepony 'bout this." She backed out into the hallway and shut the door.
Scootaloo frowned as she looked to the ceiling, her thoughts now pervaded by rage. Whoever you are, I hate you!
The voice didn't respond. In fact, the silent presence it had had was now undetectable within Scootaloo's mind. I know I didn't just imagine you! I know you're still in there! Her thoughts simply echoed about her mind, the focus of her fury clearly unresponsive. .....what? You're just gonna show up out of no where, do something to embarrass me, then disappear? Who do you think you are?!
This time, she received a quiet, perfectly calm answer. The voice said, A friend. In the end, I'm only here to help you. So, calm yourself, if you'd so please.
Scootaloo growled out loud, but didn't know what else to think to this voice in her head. ....explain to me just what the hay is going on. I get this random disease and start seeing purple, and now you show up! It's starting to get on my nerves.
All in good time, Scootaloo. For now, rest, my weary young pegasus. I will explain as is necessary, but for now, I will leave you with this. Always search for the truth, as there is nothing stronger or more absolute. The voice said nothing after that, and seemed to disappear completely. Scootaloo sighed, glancing to the filth on the floor.
"Maybe those pills have already done a number on me..." She thought aloud.