Sig Alert

by Dan_s Comments

Sig Alert 2

Sig Alert 2

DISCLAIMER: My Little Pony is the property of Hasbro, Inc.
Smaug is the property of the Tolkien Estates

"Freeze!" he hissed and grabbed the ninny's muzzle, then hustled her behind a tree, "I don't think it saw us." He glanced around the gardens outside the Grand Galloping Gala carefully. "Maybe it caught our scent."

Of course the ninny whimpers, he thought as she held stock still, rather than chasing after all the animals in the Canterlot garden.

"Look, you stay here. Don't move a muscle. Don't make a noise. I'll try to draw it off," Smaug said, intending to raid the buffet and maybe check out other victims, leaving the ninny paralyzed where she wanted to be.

He ignored her pleading, tear-filled eyes, and slipped around the tree, and skulked towards the party proper. He positioned himself, and noted a squirrel was investigating the unmoving newcomer that had formerly been chasing it and other animals around. Fine, now you can meet all the critters you wanted to meet before, he thought as he bowed slightly to Luna, who'd been watching from the darkness. He noted her smirk, and he slipped into the main hall. He looked at all the fatuous ponies sipping, noshing and `socializing`. If I was my right size, what a banquet they'd all be, he thought happily, Ponies always were a real treat.

"You lied to me," the ninny said, vaguely miffed, which on another would be fury.

Smaug knew a denial wouldn't work. "How so?" he asked, as the others ate their donuts in sudden, embarrassed silence.

"You said there was a monster in the gardens." That caught Celestia's attention.

"No, there was 'something scaring the animals'," Smaug said, "I never said it was a monster."

"I never saw it," Fluttershy said sternly.

"That's because you never looked in a mirror." Smaug noted that the ninny made the connection faster than anyone, except the Pony Princess.

"Oh," the ninny said shamed, and pawed the floor.

"That's the difference between truthfulness, honesty and friendship," Smaug directed at Applejack, "I let her mislead herself, but when I did, it was to her benefit."

"Ah don't like lyin'," Applejack replied.

"I never lied, I only implied the monster was outside us. And in hiding from 'the monster' she ceased to be the monster," Smaug said as he dunked his donut in cocoa. "So where exactly was the lie?"

He smiled, munching the donut as the orange one crossed its eyes and tried to work it out.

"I just wish I'd caught Blueblood out in the open," Smaug lamented, "A full bladder and a flight spell can make a stunning fashion statement."

The fashionista and the Princess snorted at that.

The sight of a dragon, a real dragon towering over Lesser Horsieland told Smaug that his warnings about not having the Elements at hand had been proven right, again. One of these days they'll learn. No, I could put the lesson so they'd trip over it, and they'll just get up, dust themselves off and march straight into disaster, he thought as the coloring of the dragon nagged at his mind, I know him.

The roar which was indistinguishable from noise to a pony resolved itself to Smaug as 'Spike want!'

He flew up towards the immense drake. For once the Purple One's master recognized a threat. "Nice improvement, but there's something you forgot," he told the huge creature, withholding the knowledge to inflame the monster's greed for it.

It threw back its head and roared, then tried to seize Smaug, but the small dragon had been practicing his maneuverability, an absolute necessity to avoid the Cyan Noise, and its ridiculous ideas of `training`. Several swipes and as many misses as the creature's reflexes betrayed it.

Smaug watched the Wonderbolts zip past and attack. "Hey! I'm working here!" he shouted, then withdrew to a safe distance as Spike-zilla grew more surly with the interruption. Ponies, as was their wont, proved utterly ineffective against such a powerful creature. Catching them in a water tower, same as the one his mistress used to dealt with the Ursa Minor, Spike-zilla focused on Smaug again.

With the Wonderbolts properly `canned`, Smaug again approached. "Here is a riddle for you, what is it that Spike truly treasures? What is the think he cultivated in the capital, what is the think he's extended here, what is the truest power he possesses?"

The look of absolute triumph on the monster's face was swiftly followed by horror as it glanced around the damaged town, the terrified ponies running and screaming in chaos, and the realization of who had caused it. Dragons didn't suffer from Cutie Mark Failure Insanity Syndrome, but Spike's reaction was as close as it got.

Smaug didn't expect the sudden reversion, but he raced downward to save the younger dragon as the youngster screamed in anguish and terror as if from a physical wound. "Got you," he assured Spike as he desperately tried to slow their greater, combined mass before the ground manage to hit them.

"Smaug, why are you saving me?" Spike asked as he glanced at the fast-approaching ground and covered his eyes.

"Answer my riddle," Smaug said as the yellow ninny caught them both.

"Friendship," Spike said, "We're - friends."

"No one is more shocked than I," Smaug admitted, "But you have not been too tiresome a companion, and you have been a teacher that the instincts can be an enemy to wisdom. Something I forgot, and wound up here."

Spike nodded as the ninny landed them in front of the rest of the Element Bearers sans their Elements.

Sometimes they make me want to cry, he thought.

They cooed and ah'ed as Spike and Smaug assured them the giant dragon was gone, and would likely not return. Save in dire need, Smaug thought and considered the lesson, and how to exploit it.

"You need books your library lacks, and an end to the paucity of scholarly pursuit of that knowledge," Smaug scolded the Purple One, "As well as for Owlicious, although Fluttershy can help with the latter. It is wrong to have a friend of whom you know so little about his health, psychology and needs."

The Purple One pawed the ground and looked ashamedly at Spike. Considering the ponies' treatment of him, on numerous occasions, they were also caught in the net of unspoken recriminations.

"It is fascinating that the immature, non-pony among you lives your ideals far better than you do. For ordinary ponies this would be regrettable, for those who embody the Elements, it is existentially disturbing," he told them, and enjoyed their discomfort.

"What's 'existentially' mean?" the Cyan Noise asked.

Twilight announced, "If I don't move a muscle, nothing can happen."

Smaug had been listening to the soliloquy of stupidity while he perused the library, and had been expecting such a nonsensical 'solution' to the purple one's blabbering through a warning from the future.

This wouldn't be a problem if you were half the scientist Spike is. Collect the data, then analyze, Smaug thought as he glanced over at the purple librarian. Time for another lesson in 'Dragon', he thought as he considered Spike.

"Spike, it is time to introduce you to the art of Zen Tickling."

He saw the sweat on the purple one. Because she's deduced she's the target, he thought, But also because information is being passed without her intruding.

" 'Zen Tickling'?" Spike asked, glanced at the pleading eyes of his mistress, and said, "Let's discuss this, outside!"

If he stabbed her, he wouldn't get that look of betrayal, Smaug thought as they headed outside.

"Now look, little guy," Spike said, with an edge on the friendly tone, "I can appreciate you and Twilight don't get along. But she's my friend, and you are not messing with her when she's like this."

To Spike's confusion and amazement, Smaug patted him on the head. "Good, very good. 'MINE' is a very dragon way to be, even if the 'mine' is a friend. And you didn't let it overwhelm you. Greed is a dragon's heart, but not a dragon's mind. And you can't let it win." He shuddered at the terrible and fatal clumsiness of his Laketown assault, versus the elegance and cunning of his attack on Erebor and Dale, nearly two centuries earlier.

"You're doing it again," the younger, but larger dragon said suspiciously.

"Your pony goes off the deep-end, and must learn to quit doing that, or she'll eventually do something to the whole town . . . again." Smaug deeply regretted not being present for the whole 'Smarty-Pants' fiasco. Even Spike cringed at that.

"I don't trust you," Spike said, and received another grin.

"You can rely on who and what I am. I enjoy the failings of your mistress. And will keep taking advantage of them, until you start grinding off the rough edges. Let's go inside."

As soon as he was through the door, he raised his voice. "Herself from the future? I bet she was too busy talking about how it was impossible, to even listen to the message. That would be our Twilight." He stood directly under the glare of the purple librarian, but kept looking at Spike. He ignored the warning glances and gestures as he stood in range of an easy bite from the mare. "Spike, do you know how to tickle a porcupine?" Smaug asked, "I doubt there's even a book on it in here." Smaug glanced up at the nervous statue. "You know, if unicorn sweat was rare, or alchemically valuable, we'd have enough to buy a horde for kings."

When the purple one considered, he pointed and shouted, "Her ears! She moved her ears! We're all doomed!"

The purple one panicked and stood even more rigid.

"Can you not do that?" Spike asked, a hint of anger peeking through.

"Of course, but I think she would have preferred the teasing to the lesson. You see, Fluttershy -" Smaug said.

"Fluttershy invented this?" Spike blurted out before his mistress.

"Of course, she figured out how to tickle porcupines. I taught her how to extend it to other animals," he said loftily.

Easy old boy, a little 'my pony's better than your pony' is not the lesson, Smaug reminded himself.

"Is she ticklish, anywhere?"

"Bottoms of her hooves. But not as bad as Rainbow."

Ah, a lesson to be learned and used later, Smaug thought.

"Spike," she said between clenched teeth.

"Not really useful," Smaug considered, rubbing his chin, "Unless we turn her upside down. Anywhere else?"

Spike glanced around nervously, and waved him over. "I don't really know, nobody really tickled her before."

"That's excellent!" Smaug roared, "Then we can proceed to the advanced techniques directly!"

"Advanced?" came a clenched-teeth whimper.

Smaug leaned close, and whispered to Spike. "You just walk around, and occasionally wiggle your fingers at her. No touching, think porcupines, I'll nod when you've found a good spot."

Spike whispered back, "It's not going to hurt her?"

"No, afterwards, we'll get her friends and the mayor together, and come up with an action plan. We'll also get Luna and Celestia warned. In case it's planet-wide."

Spike nodded and walked up to the purple sweat factory. Her eyes strained to keep track of him, then snapped rigidly forward when Smaug gasped. But they were still drawn to the little dragon. As Spike stood beside her, he immediately noticed the ears pulling away from him. He glanced at Smaug, who was already getting a step-stool for Spike.

Spike stood beside his mistress. "This is for your own good," Spike told her, "Tickle, tickle." He waved his claws near her ears. "Tickle, tickle."

The purple one's eyes crossed and her knees bent in. Smaug held up a mirror so she could see her assistant getting close, but not touching. The crazy owl also approached.

"No touching, just get close."

"Who, whooo," it said to the shivering unicorn. Letting the slight breeze of his wings play over her ears, which were fluttering hard enough Smaug half-expected her to lift off.

"Excellent lads," Smaug said and walked up to the purple one, "Now, after you break, we're going to get the mayor, the Princesses and your friends together for some brainstorming. After we're through making you laugh yourself sick."

"Tickle, tickle."

"Who whoo."

The sheer volume of the purple one's laughter bowled Smaug over. And loud, squealing, plaintive pleas for mercy brought most of the people needed for the meeting.

Of course Fluttershy scolded him. And much to her chagrin, had to explain how and why she'd even developed the technique.

"Oh I sent a letter off to their Highnesses about the technique," Smaug told her, "Her Highness is eager to see you all. At your earliest convenience." The complete terror on their faces was well worth it.

He didn't normally follow Opal's lead, and would have left the problem to Fluttershy, but this was one problem the even the yellow ninny agreed had to be left to other solutions. Spike was out, although Angel and Owlicious were elsewhere, working their end of the problem.

The noise came, the noise that had the purple one climbing the walls for days. Someone, something was destroying her precious books. A crime greater than Discord's.

Smaug had always been a 'tunnel rat' squeezing through openings logic demanded were too small for one of his size. Here, he had lost none of his skill. And there are things to run into in tunnels, he thought darkly.

There it is, he thought, and caught the sense of Angel closing from the other side. The cat I understand, Smaug thought as he sighted his tiny crossbow, But Angel only joined us when that rat bit his mistress. If Opal doesn't hurry, Angel may tear the book-eater into very tiny pieces.

He fired, sending the tiny harpoon deep into the creature even the purple one wanted dead. It screamed and charged, but Smaug had fangs and claws too. Opal caught it from the side as it closed on Smaug. Angel clipped his tiny spear together and guarded both exits from the rat warren. Opal wasn't playing this time. Like her mistress, she was a pampered lady with claws, and the skill and willingness to use them.

Smaug watched her finish her kill, and fastidiously eat it, while he and Angel searched the nest. The clutch of babies caused Angel to throw a warning glance to him.

"Yes, the ninny will want to take care of them. I'd rather feed them to her majesty," Smaug admitted and nodded to Opal.

Or eat them myself, he thought.

Angel gave him a warning look. The bunny knew better. A bribe would be needed to stay in the ninny's good graces, especially after what couldn't be anything but a search and destroy. Smaug nodded to the expert. The two gathered 'bedding' and collected the tiny creatures to present them to the yellow ninny and the purple one. "I think we should shrink those ponies down and have them explore the 'cavern' of this tree."

"Are you sure you're all right doing this?" the ninny asked worriedly.

"No, but better for it to be done," Smaug admitted, and stepped into the sink. The water came up only to his waist, but he would be trusting her and Angel, when he lay down in it. "You were right, it's better hot."

"Steaming is more like it," Spike added. He was present, after insisting, begging and pleading to be there to help.

I am not sure anyone ever begged for the opportunity to assist me, Smaug thought muzzily as the hot water soothed his aches, and he felt the terror of water abate ever so slightly.

Angel of course watched, although he'd be parboiled if he tried to intervene in the water.

The startling, familiar belch from Spike produced a scroll, directly over the sink. Spike and the ninny tried to grab it, but only Angel was in position. The rabbit easily caught it, but overbalanced and fell towards the water. Smaug's foot in the middle of his chest saved the rabbit from a rather severe scalding. Then Smaug realized he was underwater, holding his nose and his breath. He shoved the rabbit safely back from the edge, and surfaced.

"I swear that mare does things like this on purpose," Smaug muttered.

The scroll was returned to Spike, right between the eyes. Angel glared at the dragon as he overbalanced and fell to the floor. A moment later Spike opened and read it. "I'm afraid I have to go." He ran towards the door.

A curt nod was all the thanks Smaug got from Angel, but both knew the depth of the sentiment.

Smaug landed on the Librarian's back and caught her purple ears, as she dashed around more than the cyan noise. He pulled back, to rein her in.

"OWW! OW! OW! OW!" she complained as he finally brought her to a halt. "Smaug! I don't have time for games right now."

"Twilight, do you know what Angel, that's Fluttershy's bunny, calls you?" he asked, finally able to show the contempt and sarcasm he normally kept hidden. He hopped off her back and walked around to face her. "He calls you 'the pony who cries vulf'," Smaug told her. "You already forgot all the lessons you taught the party-pony, Pinkie Pie, about clues, evidence, and a logical chain. Or do those only apply to those of us who aren't 'Celestia's prize student'? You charge in there with this 'evidence', and it's going to be, 'oh Twilight's catastrophizing, again'. You will be summarily dismissed, perhaps even from Shining Armor's circle of friends."

She shook off the horror after a moment. "Okay, you're so smart, what should I do?" the purple one tried and failed to match a master's contemptuous tone.

"If you really think there's a problem, get the Elements, now. You should have done that already. If there's a problem, a threat, you should be carrying your` swords` with you at all times. Why don't you volunteer to take up your brother's burden for a day or two? Let him and her get on with the plans for defense or the wedding. And if he doesn't accept the offer, then ask Cadance to teach you the spell to ease his pain so she can concentrate on the wedding. Take your concerns directly to Celestia and separately to Luna. Defending the realm is their job, not yours."

"What if they don't believe me?" she asked with her ears folded back.

"Then you did a rotten job of collecting data and presenting it. If you need help doing that, talk to some good, budding scientists."


"Spike, you know him, scaly guy, breathes fire, tries to keep sharp objects and cliff edges away from a oblivious, obsessive unicorn?" Smaug asked and enjoyed her frustration. "The other is the best scientist among you, Pinkie Pie."

"WHAT?" Twilight shouted, nearly bursting into flames in her fury and disbelief.

"Sure, did she run into something impossible, and waste time arguing its existence? Multiple times? Your friends don't believe you, heck you didn't believe you, and you spent all that time worrying when if you'd just listened, you could have solved the problem." Smaug watched the purple one's ears droop, and moved in for the kill. "Pinkie, and Spike, accepted what was happening, looked for patterns, correspondences, and got a workable framework to predict events based on data. That's what a real scientist does. He doesn't treat a new discovery as Rarity would a tradesman with muddy hooves prancing around her shop." He loved her utterly broken expression.

"She didn't do that when trying to find out who ate MMM," it offered lamely.

"As I remember, she picked up the right way to do it, from you, very quickly," Smaug retorted, "Once she quits playing games, she's a very clever pony."

Now I have to give her the sugar, so she keeps coming back, he thought.

"Now, lay out your case. When we've worked out the details, present it to their Highnesses. You are not an investigator, you're a student of magic. Your backups are an apple farmer, a daredevil, a party planner, a fashion designer and the local, cat pony. Leave investigations to investigators, and you concentrate on magic, and planning the wedding. In case it is all just nerves, yours and hers."

The purple one nodded and laid out a lace doily of disjointed facts that wouldn't have served as chain mail it was so full of huge holes. Smaug noted Spike's approach, and he enlisted the other dragon into pulling out corroborations from his mistress' and his own experiences with Cadance and Shining Armor.

They were exhausted when they finally had something that would stand up to scrutiny. "It's so circumstantial," the purple one admitted.

"Now you see why no one would have believed you?" Smaug said, "And it's a vast improvement over where you started."

"How will I remember all that?" she asked.

Spike sighed and held up a much crossed out parchment that held the 'final draft'.

"Oh, thanks Spike, thanks Smaug," she said and trotted off.

"Why did you help?" Spike asked suspiciously.

"Because I can smell the evil around Cadance, but humiliating your mistress before helping her is so much fun."

Spike glared at him, again.

Smaug shrugged. "I'm a dragon, of course I'm better."

His student rolled his eyes and ran after his mistress.

"Spike?" Smaug said, and waited for the little dragon to turn, before he walked around a pillar, and walked out with Princess Luna. Spike banged his head on a pillar several times before racing after his mistress.

"Thank you for bringing this to Our attention," Luna said.

"Like I said, I had groundless suspicions, now you have more," Smaug admitted.

"But with 'more' we can act."

"Fifty bits says she forgets to tell you after she tells Celestia," Smaug said, getting a dig in on her Highness.

"No bet," she replied sourly.

Smaug HATED when his schemes didn't work. Especially when one had landed him in this insane world. His warning and help in trapping Chrysalis early had one, serious side-effect, the bug ponies had moved up their timetable. "At least we're not ruining the wedding," he grumbled, as he looked around the captured throne room, then glanced over at the cocoon containing Celestia. The diarch's eye roved, trying to fix on someone or something to rescue her and her realm.

"What do we do?" Spike asked, oscillating between anger and helplessness. The two of them had bought time for the others to escape, but there were too many guards for two, young dragons to engage.

Waiting for them to return with the Elements is a nonstarter, Smaug thought, then looked closely at Spike, I never considered the ninny's anger management lessons would have been useful to me. Well, a new lesson learned, as he considered the situation, It's amazing what a clear head and the willingness to do anything gets you.

"Spike, you do realize that once she's converted, Celestia won't be your friend anymore," Smaug told his fellow dragon. Spike's stricken expression told Smaug to continue. "Of course, assuming they've laid a trap at the Temple of the Elements, Twilight and Rarity will follow soon enough."

Spike's eyes narrowed as he whipped his head around to stare at the celebrating Chrysalis. Smaug had no idea why the bug-pony was singing at a time like this, when the event could still slip through her wholly holey hooves.

"Of course Applejack and Pinkie Pie are a given, Rainbow might get away, but Fluttershy," he said, smiled as Spike looked back at him and he laid a hand on Spike's shoulder, "I'll sell my life dearly, but I fear it won't be enough. You know her." Smaug shrugged as he dropped his arm to his side. "Who knows what they've already done with Cadance. She and Armor included you in their outings with Twilight, didn't they? Is that why you get so mad that Twilight and the other Bearers don't?" Smaug could practically hear the sizzling fuze.

Smaug looked into the eyes of fury and resolution. Ah yes, the power of `SPIKE WANT!!` Smaug thought and began rapidly stepping away from the other dragon, So sad Queenie, from satrap to sailcat. I just hope he can contain himself.

Smaug walked through the tunnels, marking the tunnel floor as he advanced. Chrysalis had duplicated Cadence's scent, so the trail where the real Cadance had been dragged was essentially marked as if by signs 'Your Princess is in THIS castle'. The trail out was now marked for the nose-blind. The muted, thunderous booms from overhead demonstrated that the Changeling Army was being swiftly and methodically dealt with. They'd decided to leave Chrysalis to Moon and Sunbutt, while Spike-zilla stamped out the Changeling Army, litterally, as in they'd just be litter.

The wall ended the trail, but Smaug had claws and teeth harder than any crystals. "Ha ha, our moat of cider and gingerbread wall will keep Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie out!" Smaug tore into the wall, and spat it out. "Eww! Well, I don't have to swallow any. How does rock get stale?" He had a decent-sized hole in moments, and an aversion to gneiss that would last a lifetime.

"Hello, Pony Princess! You are my slave, and I command you to follow my claw marks on the floor to save Shining Armor from the impostor who took your place," he told the distraught alicorn.

A moment later, aside from the echos of a sonic boom, he was alone. "It's so nice to find minions with a good work ethic." He trotted back the way he'd come, sneezing occasionally at the dust clouds Cadance's passage had raised. "I wonder if she did just a boom or a sonic rainboom?"

"That's truly brilliant!" Smaug explained as Celestia's tasking of Twilight against Sombra wound down. He was surprised that neither Luna nor Celestia had spotted him slipping in after Twilight had arrived. "If she succeeds at her 'test', you're rid of Sombra, and if she fails, the Bearers and all they've wrought will be preserved forever under Sombra's mantle. Brilliant, and more devious that I had given you credit for." He bowed, slightly, as the princess' expressions curdled in utter revulsion at the take Smaug had put Celestia's plans into. "A truly magnificent game of chess with the lives and fates of mere mortals, and no matter what happens, you win a tremendous prize."

The Big Cream Cheese was stuttering at the completely warranted and unwanted praise, while the Purple Panic and Little Sister stared at her and Smaug in abject horror.

"How couldst thou conjure such an image?!" Little Sister said.

"If this was an expedition against Sombra, we'd have guards, additional mages, supplies, the Elements themselves, and a comprehensive intelligence package," Smaug explained and shrugged, "The only things that keeps this from being a suicide mission is that Sombra is a slaver not a murderer, and your purple sycophant will do anything to stay in your good graces. Sorry, Luna, she's not that devoted to you yet. So if you wanted to keep something locked up forever, you could hardly ask for a better gaoler. The subtle brilliance of it is unimaginable, and such plausibility of denial, it all hinges on Sombra's success or failure to act. Twilight will follow Celestia's 'test' and get that gold star, even if herself, her friends and thousands of innocent ponies would be hurt, killed or enslaved for centuries or millennia. Brilliant. Should something befall Equestria that destroys magic, suddenly a new alicorn, the Elements and the former Captain of the Royal Guard are all there. Like a rescue device behind a sheet of glass, protected but ready for retrieval at moment's notice."

"That is not what I intended!" the Big Cream Cheese announced.

"You mean you intended to send them, well all of us, out ill-prepared, ill-equipped and ill-informed against such a puissant foe? I had no idea the Royal Coffers were at such a low ebb that such austerity measures would be necessary, let alone enacted. You have my heartfelt sympathies. Come Twilight, off to a two-a-penny victory, or a dirt-cheap, eternal undeath."

"Princess Celestia?" the poor mare sounded heartbroken, the Big Cream Cheese looked horrified at what Twilight had to be thinking. Smaug glanced over and fought down a grin as unshed tears pooled in the Purple Panic's eyes and the Big Cream Cheese shied at the expression of betrayal.

"Twilight," Smaug took her chin, turning her to face him, and said softly, "It's for the best, it's for Equestria. It's the same price the guards have to pay whenever they go to battle, some must be sacrificed for others, but like a game of chess, pieces are only useful if they are used, and therefore risked. If we die, it is in a good cause, Celestia wouldn't just throw you against insuperable odds without some hope of success." He could see Celestia's stricken expression reflected in Twilight's eyes.

Then Twilight blinked and nodded. "As Her Majesty wishes," she said and galloped out of the room.

Smaug turned to the stunned diarchs. "I'd have the supplies and a proper briefing waiting for us at the train, just a bit of misplaced whimsy on your part." He turned, then added or his shoulder, "Or she might not come back, even if she wins."

He saw the stake he'd planted in the Royal Sisters' hearts as he bowed, then awaited their reply.

Smaug didn't mind the cold of the icy wind so much. He'd done his duty to extort more troops and resources for the expedition. All the Element Bearers, their Elements, their guards and support staff were well-equipped for the trek across the frozen North. Although the idea that we'll be trapped immortals if we don't get the job done in time explains why the small force. But it does mean the Bearers who imprisoned Discord will be preserved too, along with his prison, he sighed, I'm beginning to really like that mare. But she focuses too much on the long-game and loses the chance for little enjoyments.

The sound that alerted Shining Armor brought Smaug alert as well. While he had fought in the First Age, and destroyed towns in the Second and Third, he was seriously out of practice. Better to defer to the one who knows, he thought as he closed in on Fluttershy.

The figure who rose out of the ice would have given Gothmog pause. "Go!" he shouted to the others, "I have spells which will balance things, go!" He ignored the kiss by Fluttershy, and her urging the others to let him fight. She alone knew the spell he would perform.

He drew on the power of Equestria as Celestia and Luna had reluctantly taught him, he worried it would change him inside, but now was not the time to quibble. He expanded, his armor thickened and toughened, yet lacked the weak spot he'd developed in Erebor. His teeth and claws grew hard and sharp. And my wings, oh my wings, he thought as he leapt into the air to confront the evil shade of King Sombra. Within him, his fires burned deep and hot. Far more than they ever had before, he felt Celestia's hand in that, and he gloried in it.

His first blast drove the foul creature back. It grimaced as it reformed. His second, spread wide, fanned out and the creature's manic laughter became a note of fear.

"Sombra, shade of darkness, I am a Servant of the Solar Fires!" Smaug the Golden thundered in a voice that shattered ice and stone, "YOU! SHALL NOT! PASS!"

"Are we ready to play pin the tail on the pony?" faux-Pinky asked, then Smaug removed the blindfold. "Aww!" Then she focused on other two, very agitated, faux Pinkies waiting next to a box clearly labeled 'Without three Pinkies to open, Ponyville will be sad.'

"Can we open it now Smaugie?" the other two asked excitedly, excitedly even for Pinkie Pie.

"Yes," he barely got out before the wrapping was confettied and the train tickets inside were exposed.

"Baltimare, Manehatten, the Crystal Empire?" the three faux-Pinkies said of the 'present'.

"At the moment the other mirror Pinkies are running wild," Smaug began.

"Yeah, we should be helping with that," the three said.

On which side? Smaug wanted to ask.

"Twilight has a solution," Smaug said.

"Like the parasprites," Number One said and waved a hoof in dismissal.

"Worse, she intends to collect all the Pinkies and winnow them down to just one. Whichever survives the gauntlet will be awarded Pinkamena Diane Pie's life, legacy and goods. While I enjoy a senseless slaughter of innocents as much as the next heartless fiend, I'm afraid Fluttershy and Celestia are rubbing off on me."

"We have to save Pinkie!" the trio chorused.

"HALT!" Smaug commanded, knowing the Pinkies would shake off the dragon-spell, so he explained, "She will likely prevail over copies of later generations easily. You, the first copy, and you two the second copies will be her only challenge. Even the second generation copies she didn't participate in are substantially weaker than you three. So keeping you here assures the original's victory."

"Kinda brutal there Smaugie," the first said.

"Frankly, my plan would be to duplicate all the Bearers into groups, and send them free out into the world. Just in case."

"That really is brutal, Smaugie," the second said.

Smaug shrugged. "Mine is a wish, Twilight's is a plan. I am not playing the reaper man, Twilight is and the other have no qualms about it. I will admit, the later generations of 'Fun, fun fun' pronking parasprites in ponysuits are automatons, you earlier versions are capable of independent thought, due consideration of others, to wit, you are Pinkie Pie with all her flaws and virtues. So, the tickets. A bit of a disguise, and off you go. I figure once you're each adequately separated, you can start new lives: party planner, adventurer, just a bright spot in a darker world, whatever you wish."

"But we can't come home," Number Three said.

"I would advise telling your parents, let them contact Pinkie, and go from there," Smaug suggested, "As for coming back to Ponyville, they are exterminating the Pinkie clones with less thought than they gave to the parasprites. What would you assume your fate would be if you returned, or remained."

The three Pinkie Pies sighed. "Better to go, rather than be sent. But how do we get past a town full of ponies looking for us?" the first asked.

"First, we wait for night; second, while we wait we make some changes; third, work on your self-control. Remember your friends may need you later, but now you are just part of the invasion."

The first change was wrought as each `Pinkie Pie` became Pinkamena.

"Well, it's dye or die, your choice," Smaug said.

"I don't see a press around here," the Second said.

Smaug grinned knowing he'd made the right decision.

It was several days after he'd seen the drab-colored, drab-mane-styled Earth Ponies off to their trains, and endured the tearful, dark of the night goodbyes, that he decided to visit the Purple One. "So, mighty vanquisher of rogue Pinkie Pies, however did you stomach exterminating the last clones? The ones who could have lived their productive, happy lives with a little training." Her utterly stunned expression didn't slow his offensive, "I know killing Sombra was Celestia's orders, but killing say 1st and 2nd generation copies, about 15 all told by my count, how did you stomach that?"

The purple librarian retching all over the floor answered as eloquently as any thesis.

"Ah, you didn't think about it. Well, you're Celestia's axe-pony, so I guess that's a good thing. You and the Cyan Noise have so much in common, orders become actions without the hindrance of introspection, the similarities are frightening."

The Purple One paused in her redecoration of the floor to offer a stricken look.

As he left, he encountered Spike arriving with the groceries. "I'd go around to the kitchen entrance and get the mop," he told Spike, "And never bring up the extermination of the Pinkie Pies, it'll be better that way."

Smaug let the dragon run away, he had the others to ask. Rarity and Rainbow will rationalize it away, Fluttershy . . . no, too weak-willed to oppose. Ah, Applejack, this will be truly amusing. He was chuckling as he took to the air to ask the apple farmer some innocent questions.

"Funny," Smaug said as Big Mac and Applebloom looked on with horror. "Twilight reacted the same way," he said of the retching Applejack. "I'll take it as a warning to avoid angering you, any of you, or my fate will be the same. I did think there would be some profound revelation of deep philosophy from Twilight, or homespun wisdom from you, I'm horrified to discover I was wrong. 'You irritate me ' and 'I didn't think about it' seems the answer."

"They could think, and feel and stuff?" Applebloom asked, eyes filled with tears.

"They became more child-like and childish as they were copies of copies of copies, but talking to the first ones, yes, they were very nearly Pinkie Pie," Smaug said, "Able to live full, fulfilled lives helping people, making friends and generally brightening the world."

Big Mac joined his sister retching his guts out in the middle of the orchard while Applebloom ran away towards the Crusaders' clubhouse. He carved an arrow into the turf indicating her direction and flew back home. He spotted Applebloom running at breakneck speed on the trail to Zecora's place, so he left that to the equines. He was now growing curious about this. Curiosity is going to be my undoing as pride was over Laketown.

Fluttershy was at the house and Smaug's curiosity was all consuming when he arrived.

"Fluttershy, what was the thinking about all the Pinkie Pies that -" he stopped at Angel's warning look and the sniffle from Fluttershy. But here he would show mercy. "Good, then at least one of you will appreciate my actions. I intercepted the three most, let us call them developed, disguised them and smuggled them out of Ponyville. I can be impulsive, but in this case -" He was interrupted by Fluttershy again, this time her hug nearly squeezed the all the air out of him.

"Thank you, the more I thought, the more guilty I got, I should have said something," she told him.

"Did you think Angel or I would think less of you for being yourself?" he asked as he patted her head, "We might not approve, but we know you at least as well as you know yourself." Smaug grimaced at the approving nod from Angel, but the rabbit had become a rival without ever becoming an adversary. "But I wouldn't broach the subject with the others."

"Why not?" Fluttershy asked as she looked at him deeply.

"I asked Twilight and Applejack before I asked you. I never got to mentioning the escape when their responses to the question . . . let us call them very different from yours and extremely disturbing, and leave it at that. I won't repeat the question and suggest you don't either."

"They try to be good ponies," Fluttershy said.

"They are trying, I'll keep that in mind," Smaug said, he cocked his head, "Did you consider duplicating all of you, and sending those duplicates out into the world. A backup for the Elements?"

Fluttershy considered. "Would that even work?" Fluttershy asked.

"Something to consider," Smaug said.