DISCLAIMER: I do not own My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, it is owned by Hasbro and the Hub and other cool peoples who make it. This story is written out of love for the creation, I promise I no stealy or makey the money.
Oh how could he be six hours late, how could have he miscalculated the length of his trip to Ponyville so gravely? The opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to study a fledgling dragon in the flesh, not just out of books, or from Luna's recollections. A real live dragon that he could touch and examine, plus the chance to speak with the pony who effectively raised him. The only other pony like him in the world. The only other student of a Princess.
He was so late though, and Celestia had mentioned aside in conversation how punctual her student was. What if he was punished for his tardiness by her, and not allowed to examine her pet.
"No, Stoneheart. You musn't think like that..." the Navy colt said aloud to no one in particular, "... She too is a student of the Princesses, if anyone were to understand, I'm sure it will be her."
Stoneheart gazed out over the empty streets of Ponyville, the meager light of street lanterns punctuated heavily by the light of moon, hanging in the sky. A beacon to guide him, courtesy his Princess. He flipped his slate grey bangs out of his eyes, making sure to parse them around his horn and continued his slow walk towards the center of town. The city was exactly as his mentor had described it, and with every quaint shop he passed he imagined what they were like alight and bustling during the day.
He stopped in the center of town to attempt to get his bearings, something that was exceptionally difficult given that he knew nearly nothing about Ponyville except that it was poor and tame compared to Canterlot. In the darkness getting his bearings was nearly impossible, especially not knowing the city at all. He looked to the sky and begun tapping his hooves, until a particularily bright beam of moonlight pointed him down a road.
"Thank you, M'Lady"
Not that he had travelled even a block before around the buildings, in it's own little clearing, set a lit-up tree. Just as Luna had described the library.
"SPIIIIIIKE!!!!" A young, lavender unicorn shrieked. "How is it that the library is still a mess?!"
Twilight Sparkle was normally calm and collected, certainly not the type of person to burst into tears, but if the library wasn't clean in exactly three seconds, she might consider it. He should've been there hours ago, she was so lucky he hadn't shown up on time, not that she exactly approved of tardiness. She hastily grabbed a stack of papers and books and mindlessly shoved them onto the nearest shelf.
She was immediately followed by a small purple and green dragon, who quickly pulled the stack off of the shelves and began properly organizing it before putting it back up.
"Well, it would help if you actually cleaned up and didn't just move your mess from the floor to the shelves. Then I could actually help you and not just follow you around fixing it." Spike remarked snidely, noting almost immediately that he was being ignored.
He continued following her around the library where she once again picked up a pile of junk and went to throw it on the nearest shelf. Spike couldn't take it anymore, so he walked up alongside her flank, grabbed some hair and stopped her the only way he knew how.
"OW! SPIKE!" Twilight shouted, yanking her tail out of his hand. She momentarily lost her concentration and her magic failed, dropping her collected mess back onto the floor.
"Twilight, you're freaking out and all it's doing is making more work for me. Please, just go make some tea and relax, I will finish as much as I can in here." He said as slowly and calmly as he could, hoping to curb Twilight's nerves.
"I'm so sorry Spike. I'm just so nervous, this is Luna's first student and I just really really reeeeeally want to make a good impression, maybe I'm just worrying too..."
She was cut off by a quick knock on her door.
"EEP!" Twilight let out an incredibly high pitched squeak before desperately diving under the table.
Spike just shook his head, Twilight had managed to put Fluttershy to shame.
Stoneheart stood patiently outside the library breathing in the cool, night air. He hadn't noticed until just now, standing still, the weight of his saddlebags. Luna had advised him that his trip could potentially be a very long one and to pack accordingly. He just smiled to himself, it was his own fault for insisting on getting to Ponyville on his own and not just allowing the guards to bring him in Luna's carriage as was offered to him. He didn't want to make a scene, and instead, now his back hurt.
Fortunately, he didn't have to wait very long and shortly after he knocked a soft creak alerted him to the door's slow opening. Stoneheart froze when he saw the creature that had opened the path for him, what a beautiful and magnificent creature...
"Hi, welcome to Ponyville Library."
It was almost a snap action, with one simple motion Stoneheart barged into the library, picked up the young dragon who had answered the door and dropped him on a nearby counter. With a glow of his horn, a quill and parchment came flying out of his saddlebags as did rulers and other such instruments of measurement. As they flew around his subject the quill scratched hurriedly across the paper jotting down each noted measurement.
While the dragon's initial reaction had been something along the line of stunned paralysis, the creature was now entirely aware of what had happened, and he was hardly happy about it. He stood up and attempted to climb off of the counter but found himself now bound by this strange unicorn's magic as well.
"Just sit still for a little longer while I get my measurements and information. Purple and green color scheme, check. Tail, short but well defined and spined, excellent. Apparently traditional breed, though youth may disguise final growth. Also speaks native pony tongue, and not draconic, can you speak draconic too?"
Spike just stared at him, seething. Who was this guy? Some kind of an idiot? Spike let out a growl, hoping to intimidate him but then found his mouth clamped shut by magic as well.
"I'll take that as a no, well let's see..."
Spike was then caught off guard to see a magnifying glass also be levitated up, focusing on something on his short neck, roughly under his earspines. Fortunately, to levitate so many things, he had to let Spike's mouth go and Spike desperately yelled for his savior at the same time Stoneheart exclaimed excitedly.
"A GREED GLAND!"
Stoneheart stopped dead in his tracks, allowing his various measuring tools to clatter to the ground, only keeping the quill and parchment in the air in front of him. Stoneheart stared at the dragon, curiously.
"Who is Twilight?"
"Ahem." Came a feminine voice behind him.
Stoneheart wheeled around slowly, the last traces of his magic disappearing and the quill and parchment were set down on the counter. His head carefully wheeled around and he found himself face to face with a lavender unicorn with a 6-point star as a cutie mark, the symbol of powerful magic. Stoneheart realised exactly who she was.
"Twilight Sparkle, the owner of this library, whose assistant you just assaulted."
Stoneheart blanched, he had never been so embarassed in his life. It wasn't very often he got to see or study a baby dragon, even a dragon youth was rare. Then he realised in his haste, that he had barged into a home that was not his own and begun studying one of the occupants.
"I am so sorry." He expressed to her, only to receive a snarky comment from the young male dragon.
"Yeah, apologize to her."
Twilight just leaned around Stoneheart and gave Spike a rueful stare, the baby dragon carefully hopped off the counter and tried to slink away before Twilight pointed a hoof towards the kitchen. Her instructive symbol for 'Get Me Tea' which in this case, Spike assumed, was actually 'Get Us Tea'. The moment Spike was out of earshot, Twilight suddenly burst into laughter.
"I have never seen him stunned so much in my entire life." She snuck out amidst giggles.
Stoneheart had never been more confused in his entire life, he had broken in essentially and begun attacking one of the occupants and now the owner was in front of him with a huge smile on her face laughing at how upset her cohort was. Was this pony crazy?
"Uh... Hello, I'm..."
"Just come in Stoneheart, I'm sure we have a lot to talk about."
Spike had long since gone to bed and Stoneheart's barely touched cup of tea was long since cool, but Twilight Sparkle and Luna's student were still deep in conversation. Or at least, Stoneheart was, as his quill and parchment were back to work as he grilled Twilight on Spike's history.
"So his perfect speech stems from the fact that you hatched and raised him and he's never spent any time living amongst dragons?"
Twilight smiled, she was more than happy to be sitting with another pony who was as inquizzitive as she was but to be truthful, she was almost at a point where she was annoyed at how much Stoneheart was directing the conversation.
The moment the word came out of her mouth the quill started it's frenetic scratching once again, Twilight frowned, enough was enough.
"Stoneheart, stop. Just stop. We've been talking for hours and the only thing I really know about you is your name, that's hardly fair."
Stoneheart scoffed, "Oh come on, it hasn't been nearly that..."
He noticed Twilight idly point a hoof at a window partway through his sentence, looking over towards it, Stoneheart could see the first colours of Celestia's sunrise already poking in.
Stoneheart gave Twilight an apologetic look, it was amusing to her the way his brow furrowed when he felt that way. She'd seen a few times since the conversation started, it was a very endearing quality.
"It's okay Stoneheart, really it is. I've acted that way plenty of times, everything else takes a backseat, pouring over research, answering or sometimes asking the same question over and over again."
"I did not repeat questions..."
"You asked why Spike spoke so well, at least 4 times."
Stoneheart immediately glanced back over his parchment skimming over what seemed to be an impossible amount of notes he took.
"Four times... wow."
Twilight smiled at him, she had at least managed to get him off of his obsessive track. Now to see if she could lead the conversation.
"So can we talk about you a little bit?" She asked, radiating a bit of pride at her success in getting his attention.
Stoneheart let out a quick sigh, "I suppose it's only fair. Ask away Ms. Sparkle."
Twilight perked up almost immediately, Stoneheart was roughly her age but he hadn't become a student until much later, there were so many things he probably did that she missed out on the opportunity to. First things first, however.
"So why such an interest in Spike?"
"Well it's not Spike particularily that interests me. Although there are some aspects of his composition that I do find intriguing, he has greed glands, which are virtually now just an evolutionary leftover. So either he got them from your magical hatching, or because his egg survived a very long time." Stoneheart explained.
Twilight put leaned her head on her hoof, staring very intently at Stoneheart. One benefit to having Spike around and Stoneheart's knowledge base is that she could probably learn everything that she hadn't already read in books, from him.
"What else can you tell me about Spike?"
"Well, there are three primary archtypes of dragons. There are tyrant dragons, serpentine dragons, and of course your traditional dragons, sometimes called Legend, or Lore dragons. Tyrants are very large dragons, but usually the weakest of the three, their wings don't develop very well and they can't breathe fire. What makes tyrant dragons so dangerous is that they can breathe a fine mist, that when inhaled, forces other creatures to submit to the dragon. Hence the name tyrant."
"Well Spike breathes fire, and when he grew he had very large wings, so I'm guessing he's not one of those."
"That's correct. Spike isn't a serpentine either, since when serpentines grow up, their legs recede and their bodies begin to elongate, similar to a snake. Although they will also grow very prominent wings, sometimes several sets of smaller ones, and naturally because of their body shape and such, they are both adept at flight and swimming."
"Well, Spike definitely had legs when he grew, so that leaves traditional?"
"Traditional type dragons are by far the most common. As the dragon grows they add considerable size and musculature, this additional weight usually forces them to spend most time as quadripeds to avoid collapsing under their own weight. Usually they grow large and powerful wings to carry themselves as well, and while not as strong at flight as serpentines they're definitely capable of it. Traditionals are usually the strongest of the dragon archtypes. This is where Spike ultimately falls."
Twilight wore a perplexed expression on her face, one she often defaulted to when forced to digest large quantities of important information. Princess Luna had definitely made the correct choice in making him her student, he was like an encyclopedia of everything you could want to know. Except that instead of it just being words, you can talk to him, and feel his excitement.
"Anyway, to steer us back on topic, it's not Spike particularily that interests me. It all comes back to Princess Luna, since Celestia is interested in learning about ethereal magic, such as friendship, as you study. Luna has begun devoting herself to learning the magical properties of physical creatures..."
Stoneheart paused for a moment and was pleased to see Twilight listening intently.
"... So, Banshees, Griffons, Hydras, and most importantly, at least as far as I'm concerned, Dragons."
Twilight wore a perplexed face now for a completely different reason, Stoneheart was definitely well read and very impressive in his knowledge base but something still confused her. The edges of Stoneheart's lips curled upwards as he watched her sit there and contemplate.
"But doesn't the Canterlot Royal Library have lots of books about Dragons?"
"Pfft, hardly. Most of the books were written eons ago by ponies travelling with dragon hunting parties, not exactly an unbiased resource. Publishers just kept re-releasing the texts for the benefit of scholars who thought they knew the truth." Stoneheart finished smugly.
In Twilight's mind, that wasn't really an adequate response. Accusing the library of not knowing what it's texts are saying was almost treasonous to her. At the same time though, there had to be a reason why Luna would choose him as her student. Twilight ultimately decided that asking outright, regardless of how rude it was, would be best.
"So why you, Stoneheart? What happened that made Luna choose you?"
Stoneheart was momentarily taken aback, but answered nonetheless. "Well, when I was younger. Before I had earned the indicator now on my flank, I was a young colt at Scholar's Free Academy in Canterlot. I joined the school midway through the year after moving into the city, and since it was a slightly older class, not having your cutie mark at that point is an absolute embarassment. You get accused of not having any talent, et cetera..."
Twilight felt kind of bad for Stoneheart. Sure, some of her classmates mocked her for being a loner but she couldn't imagine what it would be like to be an older child and still not have a cutie mark. The name calling would be relentless.
"... Anyway, the unofficial class president told everyone in the class that they weren't allowed to be my friend unless I proved myself so a couple nights later they blindfolded me and brought me to the entrance of Sigil Caverns."
Twilight giggled, "You mean the cave from those old mare's tales, with the dragon inside that gobbles up naughty little colts and fillies?"
"Yeah yeah, I know. Everyone's heard the stories. Either way, I had to spend one night in the cavern on my own with just a candle for light." Stoneheart continued, plowing through Twilight's skepticism.
Twilight's expression changed very quickly when she heard the conditions as she moved closer to the edge of her seat, she had a good idea where this was going and she already didn't like it.
"The candle went out and you got lost didn't you?"
Stoneheart just flashed Twilight an amused smile, he wondered if she did this for every story she heard. Admittedly the prediction may not have been that hard, but it was still adorable she could figure it out, less for him to explain in the end.
"Not exactly, the candle did indeed go out. I never got lost though, for some strange reason when the candle went out the cavern filled up with a faint blue glow. At that point I wasn't sure which way was out though, lost deep within a cave, so I just followed the light, assuming that it had to be coming from some outside source."
Twilight just stared at him, enraptured by his story. He found that amusing too, he'd never really credited himself as a very good storyteller. He continued to smile at her as she seemingly stared off into space, not noticing the faint colour change of her cheeks.
"At the end of the tunnel I wound in this properly carved and artistically designed room. It was massive in size, and of course, since it's a large room, and my cutie mark ended up to be dragon related, it doesn't exactly take a rocket scientist to figure out that I found a dragon... A really big one."
Twilight's eyes had half shut at this point as she seemed to just gaze off into eternity, Stoneheart didn't know that this was normal for Twilight, to get completely lost in a story. So he gave her a little poke, snapping her back to reality.
"Do you want to get some sleep Twilight? It's my fault you're still awake and you seem tired." Stoneheart asked the startled mare.
"No, no... Sorry about that, I just tend to get really lost in stories. I have a surprisingly vivid imagination..." She replied, "Please just finish your story."
Stoneheart looked at her, still not entirely sure if he believed her. If getting really lost in stories meant falling asleep to them, then Stoneheart was tempted to agree with her. He continued on anyway.
"Well, the dragon in the cave was a Celestial Dragon..."
Stoneheart noticed Twilight immediately revert back to the perplexed face she'd been wearing at the start of his story. He could see the question forming in her eyes, and thought it best to just answer it first.
"... They're like the Luna and Celestia of Dragons. There's three, nearly supreme in power, one each to represent the Earth, the Sky and the Sea, more or less."
Twilight's face scrunched up in thought as she desperately attempted to digest the implications of this information.
"Anyway, supposedly if you're not a Dragon, you have to be 'worthy' of an audience with a Celestial to ever actually see one..."
"Sorry. He didn't just kill you for intruding?"
"Actually no, he actually helped me out of the cave, at which point my cutie mark appeared." Stoneheart finished.
"So when it came time to acquire a student, Luna heard the story and found you." Twilight added.
"She didn't exactly have to look very hard." Stoneheart added with a smirk.
Twilight's face could do nothing else but default back to her perplexed look. He had to admit, it was cute, if nothing else.
"I was an understudy to a castle scholar at the time, the foremost expert on magical creatures..." He explained. "All she had to do was come to my room, I was locked in pending the results of my explusion hearing."
"You were getting expelled?!" Twilight exclaimed with all the grace of an overprotective mother.
"My scholar was threatening to have me removed from study if I published a paper disproving one of his theories about dragons..." Stoneheart continued calmly "... So instead I removed some of his teeth with my forehead..."
"YOU DID WHAT?!"
"... and let him try to expel me for that instead."
Twilight just shook her head. There was so much information to sift through and understand, from the types of dragons, to the celestial dragons, and Stoneheart's obvious pride issues. Twilight really didn't know what she was going to do with it all, especially on no sleep, something she couldn't hope to get now that the sun was up. Although, Twilight was happy to have Stoneheart around, he had done much of what she herself had hoped to do before the blessing that was studying under Princess Celestia.
"Well, I'm going to have to open up soon, and I can't show you around until at least Spike is up to take care of the place. Why don't you just show yourself around? I can meet you at Sugarcube Corner in two hours or so, it's the big confectionary at the center of town, you can't miss it."
Stoneheart smiled, then got up and prepared to leave.
"I might just do that..."
Twilight turned away from him, levitating some papers up to continue the cleaning of the library.
"... Oh, and Twilight. Thanks for letting me stay."
Twilight was glad she hadn't been facing him, because something about that comment just got to her and made most of her face flush a bright red.
"Anything for the Princesses."
A/N: Trying something different to get back on the horse, so to speak. This one went through a different process then my now stalled first fic on this site, so I'm excited to hear what people think. Please R&R, I love comments and ratings, it gives me a barometer of my work.