Lightning filled the air as he hovered in the air, just above the ground. He glanced to his side, seeing his friends beside him. A yellow wyvern with a lightning bolt horn on his head, along with a white humanoid dragon with feather wings and a yellow star on its head between two head spikes. He then turned to the other side, now seeing two other dragons, one being a long green snake-like dragon with flowers covering its entire body while the other was a dragon with crystal-like scales and glass-like wings. He then looked down, where a wingless dragon on all fours could be seen, its body covered in natural metal armor.
They were all staring in the same direction, and when he followed them, he saw it. Another dragon.
This one was a large winged quadruped dragon that was pitch black with bright red eyes and claws. It was larger than any of them, being over twice their size. And with every breath it took, a black mist escaped its mouth and nostrils.
And then he spoke, his voice filled with anger and resentment. "This ends...now!" As soon as he said that, he charged, the dragons beside him charging as well. They flew, or ran, as fast as they could toward the black dragon. "Your reign of terror ends here and now!" The others dragons roared in agreement, only for the black dragon to take a deep breath.
Then, it unleashed a large cloud of the black mist that before anyone could react, consumed the six.
Spike gasped as he woke up, shooting straight upright in his bed. He let out a series of gasps, sweat pouring down his face as he glanced around, now seeing he was in his room. The drake let out a sigh, laying back and plopping his head on the pillow. And as he did this, he thought back to what he had just been dreaming about.
It was so vivid, almost like it wasn't a dream at all. "What was that?" he whispered, staring at his claws next. He knew he couldn't fly, and he didn't know any dragons like that.
"Eh, whatever," he shrugged as he turned and hopped off his bed. As he did this, he looked up at his calendar, now grinning at a circled date that was only three days away. His birthday.
The young dragon thought back, remembering the last few weeks, which had been surprisingly peaceful. The only big event that had occurred was the party that had been made in Starlight, Rogue, Heart, Soul, Discord and Thorax's honor, to thank them for saving Equestria from Chrysalis. There had also been the issue of Twilight fretting about Starlight's future, but luckily Celestia had been there to help he figure out the best thing to do. In the end, despite graduating as Twilight's student, Starlight chose to stay were she was, as she didn't feel ready to move on yet.
Now it was weeks later, and Spike's birthday was coming up. He wasn't sure how to feel about all of this. After all, in dragon terms, he was still a baby despite almost being a teenager by pony standards. He wondered when he would no longer be classed as a baby, only for an idea to pop into his head. "Gotta write to Flicker or Ember and ask about that," he muttered as he walked out the door. And as soon as he did, he was almost knocked over a pair of jakhowl cubs that ran past him.
"Ace!" He heard Mira cry out as she chased the other jakhowl, "Give it back!" Spike saw Ace was holding a book that he recognized as the diary Soul had given Mira.
"No way," he replied before looking into the book. "I wanna see what you wrote about me!"
"It's private!" Mira exclaimed before bringing her paws together. She grunted as a super tiny Aura Blast appeared between them. "Give it back!" She fired the bean sized orb at Ace, who barely managed to avoid it as it hit the wall. Despite being small, it exploded with enough force to knock him off his feet while leaving the wall untouched.
"WHOA!" He yelped as he fell over, the book flying out of his grasp. "Hey!" Mira smirked as she grabbed it and blew a raspberry before running off.
Spike could only laugh at the two's antics. Since learning to talk, they had become more active in the community. Mira had become closer with Soul's friends, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, while Ace had gotten into gaming with Rumble and Button Mash.
The drake then remembered that Twilight was supposed to be testing something, soon walking down to a room she had set up for the experiment. There he saw Twilight and Solid Script working on a familiar stone slab. "Morning Spike," she replied as she saw him walk in.
"Morning," Spike waved back before turning to the slab, "You sure this thing's gonna work? I don't want my birthday ruined because you turned yourself inside out."
"Don't worry about it," Script replied, "We've done countless tests and triple checked all the runes. This'll work."
Twilight nodded in agreement, Spike about to speak up until he suddenly felt something fill his throat. Seconds later, he let out a mighty burp, unleashing a burst of green fire that morphed into ash before turning into a scroll. The princess took it in her magic, reading, "Looks like everything is set up in Canterlot." She turned to Script, "We ready for the test?"
Script nodded and stared at the rune gate, doing one final check. "Everything's set."
"Spike," the dragon stood to attention, "Please send a letter telling Celestia we're ready on this end." Spike nodded and pulled out a piece of paper, quickly scrolling it down before rolling it up and breathing fire. The scroll incinerated with the ashes, flying out of the room and off to Canterlot.
A minute passed as the three waited for a response, only to see the rune gate shine. This created a pillar of light that flew up and hit the ceiling. It didn't damage it, but the light grew brighter by the moment. And then, something appeared within the light. The figure of a pony, which slowly walked out of the light to reveal themselves as Flash Sentry. And as soon as he was out of the light, the rune gate disappeared and returned to normal.
"How'd you feel?" Twilight asked as she looked him over.
"I feel fine," he replied while doing a slight shiver, "A little tingly, but other than that, I feel fine." He shined a big grin, "I'm not an expert, but I think the rune gates between Canterlot and Ponyville are now one hundred percent safe."
"Great!" Twilight exclaimed before glancing over to some papers, "If that's the case, we can start work on adding the Crystal Empire to the link. That way, we can teleport ourselves to any of the three castles without delay. Heck, this'll make it seem like Shining, Cadance, and Flurry are practically in the next room!"
"Should we get to work then?" Script asked, getting a nod from Twilight.
"We'll work on it for the rest of the day, then pick it up in another four days." Her eyes gestured over to Spike, making Script nod as she continued, "It shouldn't be too hard to set up a connection."
"True," Script replied as he levitated some paper in front of him, "We just need to make it as strong as possible since this rune gate will be a lot further away then the one in Canterlot. Perhaps we can add some extra power inscriptions."
"I guess, but we can't go too far with that. We need to do a few tests that-" Twilight said, only for Flash to raise his hoof between the two.
"Sorry, but I gotta get something to eat. Your little experiment meant I couldn't eat anything since...you know, I didn't want a full stomach in case the rune travel didn't agree with me."
"That's fine Flash." Twilight replied, "Go ahead, as we've already had breakfast."
"Got it." Flash turned away, licking his lips, "Time to get some grub..."
"I'm coming with you," Spike added as his own stomach growled. "I haven't eaten anything either." Flash nodded and the pair headed for the kitchen, Flash intending to have something big before heading out on patrol of the town. Hopefully, Heart had taken his advice about how to spend the day off.
"Augh!" The fire wielding colt yelped as he walked away from another stall, his sister trotting beside him. "Why is this so hard?!"
"It's your own fault for not getting Spike's birthday present sooner," Soul giggled while she floated a bag full of cauliflower bites in front of her, "If you hadn't delayed, all the good ideas wouldn't already be taken." She threw the snack into her mouth, chuckled as he let out a huff.
They then walked by Sugarcube Corner, Heart's brain now shining a bulb, "Pinkie!" He ran inside, Soul following as the two suddenly passed Springer as he walked by.
"Whoa!" He yelped as they side-stepped him, "Where's the fire?!"
"Sorry!" Heart called back before running into the bakery. "Pinkie, I have a party emergency!" In the blink of an eye, Pinkie suddenly appeared in front of him.
"What's the problem?"
"I haven't gotten Spike a present and all the good ideas are gone. Any suggestions? Because-" Pinkie held up a hoof to make him stop, then reached over and pressed it against the wall. Heart and Soul watched as the piece of wall was pushed inward like a button, causing the floor in front of them to open up before a large stack of paper shot up.
"Here you go," she pushed the papers over, "This is a list of everything Spike likes, wants or needs. The crossed out ones are what he has or somepony else got for him."
"Wow...thanks!" Heart gasped as he pushed the stack over to a corner to read.
Pinkie giggled at this while Soul rolled her eyes and Springer stood at the door. "So..." he asked the party pony, "Got everything ready for the drake's big day?"
"Eeyup," Pinkie replied as she bounced in place. "I got streamers, party balloons and all of Spike's favorite foods to enjoy!"
"Good," Springer nodded as Pinkie moved over to the register. "I think Twilight has a plan to keep him out of the castle tomorrow so we can decorate it."
"This is gonna be so much fun," Soul added, Pinkie and Springer chuckling at this.
"As long as what happened last year doesn't happen again," Springer commented as he walked up to Pinkie, Soul turning to him with a raised eyebrow. She also saw Pinkie shiver at his statement, only for Springer to ask, "So how many ponies did you invite to this?"
"Everypony!" Pinkie exclaimed as she pressed a button on the register, a large pile of envelopes falling out of a hole in the ceiling. "Twilight's parents, the Royal Knights, and even the princesses! Most of them were able to RSVP, but some of them aren't gonna be able to make it. That just means we have to party extra hard for them!"
"Cool," Soul replied as she moved over to the envelope stack. "So who couldn't come?"
"Cold, Tidal, Ruby," Pinkie listed off, "I would have sent one to First and Heather, but I don't know where they are. I asked Princess Celestia, but she said they're on a very important assignment."
"What kind of assignment?" Soul asked, Pinkie just shrugging back.
Meanwhile, just outside the Dragon Lands...
Royal Knights Heather and First were now making their way up a mountain upon request from Princess Celestia. The pair had been sent on a survey mission to investigate the Dragon Land's plant life, seeing if any of the flora could have possible medical benefits. If they did, it could create a decent trade opportunity that could go a long way to improving pony dragon relations.
"Sweet Celestia," Heather wiped her brow. "This place is so hot. It'd be a miracle if anything could grow in this kind of climate."
"That is what we have come to find out," First replied, "If there is any kind of plant life that managed to grow in this place, then it would likely have evolved differently to the plants in Equestria. Which means it may have properties that could cure a disease that we have yet to discover a remedy for."
"I already know that. Its just so hot..." Heather groaned before taking out a map. "Okay, it says here that we're meant to meet up with the Dragon Lord. She should be around here somewhere."
She then she put the map away, First now looking up and seeing something heading in their direction. But before he could get a proper look, the thing suddenly shot down and struck the ground. It kicked up a cloud of dust, making both leap back and getting into a battle stance on instinct as they stared at the fog. And when the dust began to clear, it revealed a dragon.
The dragon was male and was mostly red with a yellow chest and wings with orange spines on his head, back and tail. It saw them through the fading dust, hissing at the sight, "Ponies..." he growled, the knights about to reach for their weapons, only for the dragon to take a single step and fall over, "Augh!" He crashed, making both gasp as they saw his back was filled with scratches and bruises.
They quickly ran over, First doing his best to administer some aid as Heather asked, "Who did this to you?"
"He...he's gone nuts. And he has....has pony stuff."
"Pony stuff?" First replied, "Who are you talking about?" The dragon tried to reply, but could only groan in pain.
"Where's Dragon Lord Ember?" Heather asked next, "Maybe if we get you to her..." The dragon raised his arm and pointed a claw in the direction he had approached from, the two seeing it was the direction where we supposed to meet Ember in.
"Come on," First tried to pick him up in his magic, but the dragon began go squirm.
"No!" He yelped, "I ain't going-" He flinched at this, letting out a scream of pain. The ponies grimaced at this, quickly bandaging him up. Once they made sure he could survive on his own, the ponies left the dragon and ran to where he had pointed. A few minutes later, they found themselves atop of a large cliff that overlooked much of the Dragon Lands. And when they got there, pure shock covered their faces.
Dragons of all different shapes and sizes were scattered all across the land, all looking like they had been hit by a rain of meteors. The ground around them appeared the same, giant chunks of land missing, with other parts looking almost completely burnt. It was a destroyed battlefield.
"What could have done this?" First asked.
"Look!" Heather pointed downward, both now seeing a pair of dragons standing at the bottom of a crater. One matched the description they had been given of Dragon Lord Ember, but the other was a complete unknown. Down in the crater, Ember groaned as she fell to her knees, only able to stay up by placing her weight on the bloodstone sceptre. She then looked up at the dragon that caused her injuries, a dragon that she thought she knew and could trust. Flicker.
"Why?" She asked him, her eyes going between his face and what he was holding: A silver leather back book, "Why are you doing this?"
Flicker just smirked, giving a look of dark glee, of malevolence as he replied, "Because I want to," he chuckled as the book opened in his claws. The pages glowed red before the light shot off the pages and into his other hand. He whispered something in a language Ember had never heard, then thrust his hand out, shooting the red energy at the dragon.
Ember gasped at this, bracing herself before being struck in the chest, sending her flying back. The bloodstone sceptre fell from her grip, rolling to the ground as Flicker chuckled. "And so ends the glorious reign of Dragon Lord Ember." He held up his claw as it and the book glowed red, with the sceptre glowing along with them. Ember opened her eyes and saw as the scepter flew over to Flicker, the dragon laughing as he took it in his open claw.
"The bloodstone sceptre," he whispered. "The item signifying the ruler of the Flame Dragons." He then turned to Ember, "No creature knows its true power. When in the claws of one such as I, it's power is magnified many times over."
"What are you talking about?" Ember asked as she tried to push herself back to her feet, Flicker smiling as a light moved from the book, up his arm and through his body before moving to his other arm and going into the sceptre.
"Let me show you," he held the sceptre up before unleashing a red shockwave that shot out in all directions. As soon as it hit Ember, she clutched her head in pain, falling to her knees while the other dragons suddenly awakened and roared while doing the same.
The two pointed watching gasped as they saw the dragons appeared to be tortured by the energy wave. Second by second, their screams intensified until they suddenly went silent. The dragons went limp next, their heads dropping, remaining still as Flicker chuckled at the sight.
"Arise, my faithful servants." With that, the dragons all began to move. They stood up and remained still as the ponies now saw all the dragons' eyes were now glowing bright red.
"He's controlling them..." Heather whispered.
"How is he doing that?" First asked, "Dragons are not supposed to have this kind of magic."
Heather glanced between the dragons and the book Flicker was carrying, seeing the same glow coming from it. "It's got to be that book. Whatever it is, it must be an incredibly powerful spell."
"Then we have to get it away from him," First added, "If we do not...who knows what he will do with an army of dragons by his side."
But as he said that, something came up behind him. The dragon known as Garble, his eyes now red like the others, had awakened and flew over to his new master. And when he did this, he looked down at the ponies that had given him aid. He then slammed the ground behind them, making both spin around in surprise.
And as this happened, Flicker looked up and saw the ponies, making him yell, "Attack!" Garble seemed to hear this and unleashed a burst of fire, forcing First and Heather to leap back. Doing so caused them to fall over the edge, both barely able to brace themselves as their hooves hit the canyon's walls, both sliding down as Flicker pointed at the ponies, "Go."
The dragons all turned to the ponies, taking flight as they began to breathe in some flames. Seeing this, Heather pulled out her Celestic Gear, "Bloom FORCE!" A tornado of leaves that flew up at the dragons, pushing them back.
This made Flicker raise an eyebrow, "Wood magic?" He shined a small grin, "Perfect." He turned to Heather, "Seems luck is already on my side. With you, I'll be one step closer to my goal." The ponies turned to him as he pointed his sceptre at them, the gem now glowing. "Let's begin, shall we?"
Back in Ponyville…
Flash and Spike were now eating breakfast, the pegasi noticing Spike barely biting his food. The sight made him raise an eyebrow, "You okay Spike?" The baby dragon looked up at him, "You don't seem your usual happy self today."
"It's nothing," Spike replied as he bit into some toast.
"Its obviously not. What's wrong?"
Spike's eyes slowly shifted up, now seeing a big frown on the defender's face. He let out a long sigh, "I uh...I had a really weird dream last night."
Spike put his claw to the side of his head, grumbling as he thought of a way to explain it, "I don't know. It just...it didn't feel like a dream, you know? It felt more like...I don't know, a memory. It just...felt so real. Like I was actually there. But I couldn't have been."
Flash took a sip of orange juice at this, "Huh. Okay..." His frown changed to a small cocky grin, "Well, considering I have experience in both prophecy and flashback dreams, maybe I can help. What happened in the dream?"
Spike chuckled at this, "Well...I was flying through the sky and surrounded by a bunch of other dragons. But these weren't like the ones we've seen before. One was more like a winged snake, and another didn't have any wings at all. And we were all staring down a giant black dragon and it looked like we were about to fight. And when I talked, it wasn't my voice that spoke. It was just weird."
The defender's grin vanished at this, letting out a hum, "Huh. That's a new one. Not sure if I can help with that. Maybe you should talk to Twilight."
Spike did a small shrug, "Maybe. But she hasn't been able to help much in the past when it comes to my life as a dragon."
"Then maybe contact someone who can help you. Don't you have friends in the Dragon Lands now? That Flicker dragon and the Dragon Lord..."
"Ember," he replied, crossing his claws at this, "I bet Ember is super busy as the Dragon Lord...but maybe Flicker can help. Maybe he can tell me if the dragons I saw in my dream are real or not."
"There you go." Flash responded as he gulped down the last bit of his toast before flapping his wings, flying by Spike and ruffling his head spines, "And I'd tell Twilight to keep your bases covered. Anyways, I gotta go." Spike nodded as Flash flew off, traversing the castle until he found a window he could fly through.
He soon glided over the town, glancing around before seeing a certain group of ponies in the middle of the village. It was Grand, Lightning, Rarity, Iron, Fluttershy, Applejack, Rainbow, and to his surprise, Skybreaker. "Hey!" He called out as he flew down, landing as he turned to the Knight of the Winds, "Skybreaker, long time no see."
"Same," he waved his metallic wing back at him. "Sorry I haven't been around much. Big mission."
"He was just telling us about it," Rainbow added, "It was awesome."
"Speaking of missions..." Grand turned to Flash, "How'd everything go with Twilight's little experiment?"
"Pretty good," Flash replied, "I'm not inside out, so we're choking it up as a win for the Rune Gates."
"Marvelous!" Rarity exclaimed, "That means we can go between here and Canterlot whenever we want!"
"It's to only be used in emergencies," Lightning chimed in, "As in, no quick trips to your Canterlot Boutique since they don't class as emergencies."
Rarity glared at him as Applejack let out a guffaw, "Either way, ah think ah'll be stickin' to the train when ah can."
"Same here," Grand nodded before turning back to Skybreaker. "So, you sticking around for the party?"
"Party?" Skybreaker asked.
"Spike's birthday party," Fluttershy replied, "It's the day after tomorrow. There's gonna be lots of games, lots of music and lots of really nice food."
Iron chuckled at this, "And if it's anything like last year, the after party's gonna be insane." Flash and Applejack rolled their eyes while Rarity let out a nervous giggle and Rainbow straight up laughed. Fluttershy glanced away, leaving Lightning, Grand and Skybreaker all raising eyebrows at them.
"Well..." Sky muttered out, "The princess did give me the week off, and I don't have anything else planned. So...why not? It might be fun."
The others smiled and nodded at this, the group soon going to other topics of conversation. But as this happened, another pony noticed something strange. It was Cherry Berry, who was flying through the air in her helicopter. Straight in front of her, a black spot of energy appeared, the mare barely managing to see it in time to pull the vehicle around, the black spot now growing.
This was followed by other ponies yelling, all seeing the black spot slowly expand in the sky. "What is that?" Rainbow asked, nopony able to reply. In Sugarcube Corner, Springer, Pinkie, Soul and Heart ran out after Heart had noticed the portal in the sky. But as they did this, Springer scanned in with his aura...and felt a large presence.
"What in the-" he tried to say, only to feel more auras appear with the black portal.
At the castle, Twilight, Starlight and Script had been walking from the library to the room with the Rune Gate, all passing by a window before noticing the portal. Spike had also spotted it through another window, the little dragon opening it up to get a better look. "What the heck?!"
And as the portal grew, its entire shadow began to encompass the town, causing every pony in Ponyville to notice its appearance as it blacked out the sun. As this happened, Flash now flapping up to the portal as Grand yelled, "Flash?!"
The defender didn't hear him, Skybreaker and Rainbow following as the defenders all pulled out their weapons. And as they stared at the portal, Flash saw a figure now fly out of the portal, "A dragon?"
The dragon was gray in color, carrying a strange looking staff and book in it claws. It saw the approaching ponies, glaring at Flash as a smile appeared on his lips. "There you are."
"Hey!" Skybreaker yelled as they got close enough, "What's the big idea?! What are you doing here and what's with the big hole in the sky?!" The dragon didn't reply, instead raising his staff as it began to glow. Seconds later, more dragons appeared from the portal. They were all on the smaller side for dragons, Flash spotting several teenage dragons from his time in the Dragon Lands.
The lead dragon then pointed at the ponies, with a single word escaping his lips. "Attack." With that, the flying reptiles charged, Flash, Rainbow and Skybreaker bracing themselves. And as the dragons began to clash with the trio, the rest swooped down, ready to attack the town. It was an invasion.